Back in 2013, Clifton won a season opener against Hartpury. The Red & Black went on to win National League 2 that season and the now two-tier gap was evident last night, as the visitors from Bristol struggled to live with the pace and power that Hartpury bring.
The home side was a blend of RFC players – some of whom will be doubling up for tonight’s fixture at Gloucester Rugby – and members of the BUCS squad who are now well into their own pre-season preparations.
In perfect conditions, scores came at regular intervals throughout the first half. Will Crane was first to go over, the former Moseley man getting the final touch to a powerfully driven lineout. That was followed by a debut try for winger Aquile Smith, benefiting from a mazy, high-speed break from Alex Ducker, the latter a summer arrival from Redruth.
Before the quarter was up, the forwards had driven close again, giving experienced scrum-half Robbie Shaw the chance go over for number three before another debutant, centre Dave McIlwaine, cut a great line through the midfield to score from long range (pictured).
Joe Dancer was the next to cross, a reward for his good support play, and the first half scoring was concluded when a smart move infield, straight off a lineout, saw Ducker come off his wing to cut through and scorch under the posts.
The second half was more of the same, although the scoring slowed slightly as Hartpury made changes to give game-time to as many as possible.
Prop Josh Ibuanopke brings a physical presence to any side and there was no stopping him when Shaw fed him shortly after the re-start.
Nick Carpenter has had a frustrating wait for action following a pre-season injury, but the former Bristol man celebrated his return to play with a powerful finish in the 55th minute. Next it was Victor Pisano, starting his second season at the club, who was able to slice through the Clifton defence with 12 minutes remaining.
The final word went to the Hartpury pack, who ended proceedings by driving a scrum over the Clifton line – a penalty try being awarded as the visitors disrupted illegally.
All in all, another good warm up for the season ahead. Many of these players will feature for the RFC in this campaign but equally, with a large proportion being eligible for BUCS rugby, there will be some optimism regarding the forthcoming season of student rugby also.
Hartpury RFC: Maliq Holden, Aquile Smith, Dave McIlwaine, Jamie Forrester, Alex Ducker, Sam Leeming, Robbie Shaw; Des Merrey, Will Crane, Josh Ibuanopke, Joe Quinn, Rob Fuller, Joe Dancer, Tom Pashley, Harry Wilson. Replacements: Tom Heard, Wayne Thompson, Cameron Harrison, Harry Butler, Harry Agnew, Callum Bowden, Cameron Brown, Dan Cole, Nick Carpenter, Victor Pisano, Alex Forrester.