Hartpury’s pre-season progresses on Saturday when Rosslyn Park make a welcome appearance at the Gillmans Ground.
Park have been a thorn in Hartpury’s side over the past three seasons in National One and it was not until our fourth encounter with them, late in the 2015-16 campaign, that Hartpury enjoyed any kind of success against the men from South West London (pictured, try-scorer Harry Cochrane from a 31-27 win in April 2016).
The game follows on from an encouraging opener, away at Premiership team Worcester Warriors where, despite an eventual 21-55 defeat, the squad gave a very good account of themselves for long periods of the game.
“Worcester was a good first run-out for us,” said Hartpury Director of Rugby, John Barnes. “We wanted to test ourselves and we certainly did that against a big, powerful Premiership squad.
We competed really well and were in the game for 50-60 minutes. We were able to front-up physically, which is obviously one of the big concerns for us as we step up into the Championship.
We did make some mistakes, which cost us tries, and we did lose the game in the end, but we learnt a lot from the experience. It was our first defeat since pre-season last year.
Happily, we came out of the match in good shape. Our young back rower, Tom Everard, has tweaked an MCL, but it’s nothing serious – maybe a couple of weeks – and the rest of it was mainly bumps and bruises.”
Both Warriors and Hartpury used plenty of players in the match, something that is likely to be repeated this weekend.
“The Rosslyn Park game will be a similar framework, with quite a big squad being involved, but we will be trying to give some players a little more game-time.
Playing against Park has always been a really tough encounter for us. They are one of the better teams in National One and have already played against Championship opposition in pre-season, so it’s going to be a good challenge. We were keen to play them and we are glad that they have agreed to come down to us.”
One extra item of exciting – and unexpected – news this week is that Hartpury will be fielding a team to play Gloucester Rugby next Friday, as part of a pre-season double-header that also constitutes an element of the testimonial season for Gloucester hero and former Hartpury student, Charlie Sharples. How is this likely to impact of Hartpury’s preparations overall?
“Playing Gloucester will mean some changes to our pre-season programme” said Barnes. “After our fixture with Pontypridd was cancelled due to the earlier start of the Welsh league, we’d actually decided to not have a game that weekend and go into the opening Championship fixture, at Bristol, well-rested.
We do have a match with Clifton on the Thursday night (24th August, 7pm at the College) which would have given some guys the chance to get an extra run-out if they needed it, with the bulk of that squad being made up of university players.
However, having discussed it among the coaches we were very pleased to take the Gloucester game on. It gives us another good test and, just as importantly, gives us a chance to contribute to Charlie’s testimonial. We are really looking forward to it.”
Apart from Clifton, Hartpury will also host a side from Drybrook RFC, at home, next Friday as we seek to provide game-time for the many players now in pre-season at the College, most of whom will be representing the University in the BUCS leagues over the coming campaign.
We will provide full details of all next week’s matches in due course. Meanwhile, the Rosslyn Park fixture is a 2.30pm kick-off this coming Saturday (19th August) and there is no charge for admission. The Clubhouse will be open as normal.