Having picked up their first win of the season in a rain-soaked encounter with Nottingham last weekend, Hartpury will be hoping for more of the same when they travel to newly-promoted Ampthill on Saturday.
The Bedfordshire side will be in good spirits themselves, having made a promising start to life in the Greene King IPA Championship. Having collected a five-point maximum against bottom club, Yorkshire Carnegie, in week 2, they arguably did even better last time out when battling for a 6-6 draw away to London Scottish last weekend.
Ampthill are a club that Hartpury know reasonably well, having shared a few tussles in both National 1 and National 2. The record, so far, is favourable, with just one defeat – an away match in the 2015-16 season – but Hartpury know that will mean nothing on Saturday as both sides seek to open up ground between themselves and the bottom.
There are also some familiar faces in the Ampthill squad list. Rob Langley joined the club in the summer, having played for Hartpury in our own first two seasons at this level and previously studying at the college.
Another flanker, Syd Blackmore, is a former AASE-winning skipper at Hartpury, while prop forward Ollie Walliker and winger Sam Baker – who also later appeared for Cinderford – also played student rugby in Red & Black.
“We look forward to reigniting our rivalry with Ampthill on Saturday,” said Hartpury Director of Rugby, John Barnes.
“They are a team we have battled hard with in the past. They have started their first season in Championship rugby well, and will certainly be buoyed by an excellent away draw with London Scottish last weekend.”
Barnes’ squad will be in a good frame of mind themselves, having opened their account at home to Nottingham Rugby – who won at Ampthill on the opening day of the season.
The difficult conditions meant that the game with Nottingham was always going to be a tight affair,” said Barnes.
“The constant rain and wind made it almost impossible to play with any width.”
“We managed the first half really well and probably should have been a few more points up. We need to start finishing our chances in the opposition 22, particularly our close-range attacking lineout opportunities.”
After a couple of kicking errors by us, Nottingham got back into the game, but we held our nerve to push six points clear going into the closing stages.”
“Some excellent defence and the resulting turnover from Jack Preece ensured we held on to our first win of the season.”
After that result, which followed on from a decent performance up at Newcastle Falcons, Barnes is hopeful of keeping the core of his team intact.
“We have a few knocks that will need final assessment on Friday, but we expect to name a similar side for the long drive on World Cup Final day,” he said.
With two home matches to follow – against London Scottish next Friday and Yorkshire the following Saturday – this is a run of games that Hartpury will be keen to make the most of before the season goes back into three further Championship Cup fixtures.
Saturday’s match will kick off at 2.15pm and the squad will be released at noon on Friday.