Hartpury renew Richmond rivalry after Ampthill boost

Hartpury first met Richmond in a league fixture in September 2011, on the opening day of a National League Two (South) season.  Whilst that hardly makes it a rivalry for the ages, it also happens to be the oldest existing one that the club has, following the meteoric rise through the South West division in the seasons prior to that.

For the record, Richmond won that game at the RAG, beating a freshly promoted Hartpury by 30-18 in a game officiated by Matt Carley, now an international referee.  Hartpury, who finished 4th in the league that campaign, did extract a measure of revenge in the final game of that same season, winning 33-19, although Richmond had already been promoted by that stage, as runners-up to Ealing Trailfinders.

The teams have met many times since, both in National One and the Championship, with the clubs having experienced victory and defeat in approximately equal measure.  In short, there hasn’t been a lot between us over the past ten years.

Image: From 2014 – Hartpury put the squeeze on a Richmond scrum

As if to emphasise the point, Saturday’s fixture at the Alpas sees the team sitting 6th in the Championship playing the team in 7th. Hartpury’s record of four wins from nine puts them marginally ahead of the Londoners, who have achieved three wins from eight.  Hartpury have scored 56 more points, although Richmond have one more try bonus point than their up-coming hosts.

“Yes, we’ve played against them many times in the National Leagues and the Championship,” said Hartpury’s Mark Cornwell.

“They are a very well-run community club with a lot of players on their books.  They like to move the ball around and play some attractive rugby, as well as having a decent set-piece and a good drive.”

“Obviously, they run a completely different model to ourselves – and to many of the Championship sides – and it works well for them.”

“They may not get to train together as often as the full-time professional clubs, but you always know that they’re going to come into the game with a strong work ethic, which off-sets that to a large extent.”

“Whenever you play them you know you’ve got your work cut out – they’ll go for the full eighty – and they’ve always got a few individuals that can hurt you.  Mark Bright is a good example – he may be in his forties now but he knows exactly what he’s doing and it’s not a coincidence that he’s the league’s leading try-scorer.”

Richmond should be fresh, having had their ‘bye’ week in Round 9.  Hartpury, on the other hand, received the fillip of a morale-boosting victory last Saturday when they produced a very good away performance to take a bonus point win from Ampthill, in a game largely shaped by a strong wind.

“We didn’t have the greatest preparation, as the weather affected our journey up there,” said Cornwell.

“Ampthill are a dogged, difficult side and they enjoy playing on that exposed, sloped pitch of theirs.”

“Unusually for them, they chose to play down the slope in that first half – which was into the wind – and that may have cost them.”

“We were 29-5 up at the break – I think that they were expecting to be maybe 10 or 15 points closer than that.”

“Even then, we managed to have bit of a ‘wobble’ in the 15 minutes after the break, but what I was really pleased with was the way that we wrestled back the momentum – that was critical.”

“We won a scrum penalty shortly after their final try and that was a massive call.  They probably weren’t happy about it, but that was the point at which the momentum shifted back in our favour.  It wasn’t long after that that we had the field position to score our fifth try and that enabled us to see the game out.”

One of the features of Hartpury’s first half display was some good running rugby, despite the tricky conditions.

“In fact just before Toby Venner got the first try, Barnesy (Dor, John Barnes) and I were mentioning that their guards at the breakdown looked like they might not be fully switched on” said Cornwell.   “Even before we’d finished talking, Harry Short saw the opportunity and had gone straight through the middle of the breakdown to create the score.”

“There was another that we were very pleased with, as it was straight off the training ground. Mitch Eadie hit Robbie Smith on a hard line and he was able to go 50metres to score.  They don’t often come off as well as that!”

Cornwell is full of praise for young flanker Short, who appears to have bridged the gap between student and professional rugby very nicely so far this season.

“Harry has come out of BUCS Super Rugby, where he was doing lots of positive things and now he’s doing the same at Championship level,” he said.

“He’s having a lot of impact in every game, whether that’s winning turnovers or scoring tries or linking with our backs.  There’s still plenty for him to work on but, as a coach, that’s what you want from your players – plenty of positive impacts.”

Hartpury are likely to be able to pick from similar player group this week, as there were no significant injuries in the Ampthill game.  The squad for Richmond will be named at noon on Friday. 

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