The Red & Blacks made the best possible start to the new season on Saturday, with a bonus point home win over newly-promoted Richmond.
Whilst happy with the result and aspects of the performance, Head Coach Mark Cornwell is well aware that there is plenty of room for improvement in the weeks ahead.
“I was pleased with our energy levels and our physicality,” he said. “We (the coaches) asked for it and it was definitely there. You’ve got to have that, as a minimum, in the Championship or you’re going to come off second best.”
“As a result, we were able to play with a lot of ball and put some good attacks together, particularly off turnover ball, as we saw with the first try.”
“Rhys Oakley (defence coach) has worked a lot on getting that first man over the ball and having everybody know their roles,” said Cornwell. “We got our chop tackles in, we were physical and that gave us the opportunity to get in over the ball on a few occasions.”
“But we’re not getting over-excited with ourselves. We know that Richmond have had to put a large part of their squad together only over the past few weeks and we know hard that is to manage. It’s not easy to pull a squad together, do three or four weeks of contact training and then go out and play in the Championship.”
“Yes, we enjoyed the win, but our feet are still very much on the ground.”
Hartpury’s last trip to Bedford, in January 2020, resulted in a 28-23 defeat in an open and entertaining game. This is as close as Hartpury have been, so far, to a positive result on their visits to the home of the Blues and Cornwell is expecting another tough test on Friday, despite a 10-9 opening day loss for Bedford on the opening weekend..
“We’ve come up short there a few times and we want to put that right,” he said.
“I watched their game against Coventry at the weekend. OK, it wasn’t a great spectacle and there were plenty of errors from both sides, but I thought that Bedford were very unlucky not to have won that match.”
“They had a lot more ball and a lot more territory, but they just made too many errors in trying to score. They probably got a bit of a ticking off from the coaches and they’ll be chomping at the bit to put it right this weekend.”
“They’re an experienced Championship side who always play a good brand of rugby, so we know the size of the challenge ahead.”
Of course, apart from the Hartpury win, the result of the weekend for many would have been Cornish Pirates’ victory over recently demoted Premiership giants, Saracens.
“I haven’t watched it yet,” said Cornwell, “but I’m sure I will at some stage during the week.”
“I know that a lot of people are getting excited about it, but it didn’t surprise me at all. We know what it’s like to go down there and play them on their own patch.”
“It’s a four hour journey even for us, and we’re their nearest Championship club! They’re a very well-drilled and well-organised side under Alan Pavior and Gavin Cattle. They’re a big physical outfit and they know what they are all about. It’s a tough place to go.”
“So, no – no surprise to me at all. Saracens will know, now, that they have some work to do. They can’t just turn up and expect to walk into that end of season play-off.”
Friday evening’s game will kick off at 7.45pm and supporters are reminded that they can watch the whole contest via the live-stream – tickets can be obtained at this link. Revenues for live-streaming are allocated between the clubs in each match, so you’re not only watching the game – you’re also supporting the club!