Fylde Rugby 31 – Hartpury RFC 57


Another nine-try haul helped Hartpury to their eighteenth successive win in this lively encounter with an equally attack-minded Fylde.

However, with 15 minutes to play, this game was very much in the balance and it will be the five scores conceded that will preoccupy the coaching team this week.

Both of these teams produce an open and attacking brand of rugby, so the nature of the match did not come as a surprise.   But if, as seems likely, Hartpury find themselves playing in the Championship next season, they will need to be more clinical than they were in his fixture, particularly when it comes to not allowing teams to dictate the play as Fylde did for long periods.

The men in red and black have conceded 13 tries in their last three matches and, although the defence is often very good for long periods, there are moments when it seems that a wake-up call is needed.

Of course, the statistics in every other respect are remarkable.  Only one point has been dropped out of a possible 90 in the campaign to date, and the points difference of 569 is more than three times better than that of their nearest rival.

It is easy to see why when you look at the attacking weapons on offer.  Against Fylde, Hartpury had clinched the bonus point well before half-time with a number of well-taken scores.

Ben Vellacott, returning at scrum half following his successful Premiership debut for Gloucester, was among those to benefit with a personal tally of four tries, while winger Jonas Mikalcius weighed in with a smartly taken brace, both coming in the five minutes before half time.

Indeed, there was no indication of the tension ahead as the visitors eased into a comfortable early lead.  Steve Leonard, running powerfully off first phase, created the first opportunity for fullback Mike Wilcox, who had the pace to finish from 40 metres (pictured).

Five minutes later, Mikalcius was set free on the left and he made good ground before his inside ball left Vellacott, in support, with a trot in.

Luke Eves had made his Hartpury debut on this ground a year earlier and he was able to celebrate in the 23rd minute, finishing powerfully after Wilcox had created field position with another big break through the midfield.

Fylde, to their credit, did rally before the break.  A well-worked overlap provided ample space for Anthony Bingham’s flamboyant finish, before Sam Bedlow was allowed to stroll through some slack tackling.

Either side of the Bedlow try, Mikalcius showed his worth with two pacy finishes and with one excellent effort to get up and reclaim a Hartpury re-start.

If there had been signs of Hartpury’s collective attention wandering before the break, it became more noticeable in the second period as Fylde controlled possession and territory for long periods.

Outside half Greg Smith took advantage to score under the posts in the 47th minute and, although Hartpury did respond when another fine intervention from Wilcox put Vellacott in at the corner, it signaled an extended period of Fylde pressure.

Skipper Chris Briers finished a sustained attack before, with a penalty advantage being played, Smith launched an excellent cross-field kick that fell perfectly into the arms of on-rushing winger James Bailey.

Smith’s good conversion made it 31-38 and, with quarter of an hour to play, Fylde had a very real sniff of an upset.

Finally, Hartpury shook off their second-half lethargy and, inspired by the ever-lively Vellacott, had the resources to put the game to bed.

A quickly tapped penalty, won after the forwards had created a good platform deep in Fylde territory, saw the ball moved wide right for winger Levi Davis to finish well and restore some breathing space.

Into the final 10 minutes and Vellacott showed incredible pace to be first to Perry’s kick ahead, his footballing skills serving him well as he controlled the bouncing ball before scoring.  Shortly afterwards, with Hartpury now firmly back in control, another quick tap from five metres out saw him wriggle over to complete the scoring.  Perry was successful with six of his nine conversions.

With Moseley not playing due to a frozen pitch at Blaydon, Hartpury’s lead is now 26 points, although next week’s home fixture with a rapidly improving Coventry is looming as another major test of their credentials.

Fylde: Briers (Try 56), Bailey (Try 63), Armstrong, Bedlow (Try 37), Bingham (Try 30), Smith (Try 47, Cons 48, 56, 64), Nicholls, Griffiths, Burtonwood, Lewis, Gray, Garrod, Turley, Fairbrother, Rogerson.  Replacements: Wild, Gregory, Lamprey, Brookes, Dowds.

Hartpury: Wilcox (Try 4), Davis (Try 66), Leonard, Eves (Try 23), Mikalcius (Tries 35, 40), Perry (Cons 10, 24, 36, 40, 75, 79), Vellacott (Tries 9, 49, 75, 78); Flook, Tanner, Clarey, Chan, Quinn, Polledri, Safe, Oakley.  Replacements: Taylor, Barron, Brockett, Dancer, Shaw.

Referee:  Matt Turvey

Attendance:  765

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