Hartpury stormed to a bonus point victory in a dominant display against London Scottish, controlling the game from start to finish under the Friday night lights at the Alpas Arena, writes Jenny Bates.
The result made up for last week’s disappointment against Ampthill and Hartpury will know that another positive outcome in next Saturday’s encounter with Yorkshire Carnegie, will leave them in the calm waters of mid-table as the clubs go into three rounds of Cup action.
The Red & Blacks’ energy and aggression were rewarded with six tries, four of which came from the back division.
There was also a huge individual effort from flanker Jack Preece who was awarded man of the match for his contribution around the field and his strong defensive display.
Preece, and the rest of the forwards, gave very little away, forcing London Scottish into errors and picking up no shortage of penalties.
Given the platform, the backs were also to show what they can do, with tries from Jake Morris, Charlie Powell, Tiff Eden and George Simpson. The bonus point was no less than they deserved.
Having had the better of things against Ampthill last week – despite the eventual outcome – Hartpury came into the game in reasonable shape. Morris was making his Championship debut but, despite a handful of other changes, there is a more consistent look to the selection than was achieved throughout much of last season.
It took just three minutes for the home team to make their mark. An attacking lineout on the five metre line allowed them to use their strength in the drive and prop-forward Dan Murphy was able to bundle over.
Joshua Bragman added the extras, but, shortly after, the visitors retaliated with a try from lock forward Luke Frost, after good work from Charlie Ingall and Luke Hibberd had taken them close.
Seven minutes later, Hartpury almost grabbed another score as George Simpson looked to get on the end of Bragman’s cross-field kick. Despite a good effort, he could not quite connect and the Exiles were able to clear.
However, Hartpury did claim their second in the 20th minute, as former AASE-winner Morris displayed great pace to glide over in the corner for a try that was, again, converted by the reliable Bragman.
The hosts were building up a head of steam and their three-quarters took advantage again in the 28th minute. This time it was dangerous young centre, Charlie Powell, who stepped his way through the Scottish defence and bolted down the middle to score under the posts (pictured, courtesy of LNC Images).
Scottish did get some relief when winger Hibberd eventually slid over, after the pack had set up a position close to the Hartpury line.
However, with time almost up before the break, the visitors were penalised deep inside their 22, allowing Bragman to kick for goal and extend the half-time lead to 24-10.
The second half again started brightly for Hartpury. Jake Henry’s kick and chase gave his team some territory and pressurised the visitors into errors. A penalty kick to the corner was followed by another lineout drive and, this time, it was Joe Batley who crashed over for the Red and Blacks.
To their credit, the Exiles did not capitulate and, in the 66th minute their efforts were rewarded.
Despite some impressive defence from Preece, Batley and Murphy, who all worked hard to defend the line, Frost was able to force his way over for his second try, converted by Will Magie.
Tiff Eden came on at fly half for Hartpury, replacing Bragman, who had another good game, and it wasn’t long before he too, showed what he could do.
Firstly, he slotted three points after Scottish had been penalised, before a beautifully-executed chip and chase brought his first try in Hartpury colours.
In the final minute, Hartpury’s free-running backs completed the job through George Simpson, who slid over in the corner. Eden’s conversion was good, producing the final tally of 44-17.
Hartpury now sit 8th in the Championship table and will know that a win next Saturday, at home to bottom club Yorkshire Carnegie, could improve that position further, potentially leaving them with record of won three, lost three, after the opening series of matches.
It took until February to collect the third win last season, so the Yorkshire fixture represents an opportunity to confirm the progress that is being made in this campaign.
Hartpury: Simpson (Try 79), Morris (Try 20), Powell (Try 28), Eves, Henry, Bragman (Cons 4,21,28. Pen 40) Carter, Murphy (Try 3), Crane, Gibson, Batley (Try 48), Hawkins, Graham, Preece, Nagle-Taylor. Bench: Cutting, Merrey, Flook, Safe, Qera, Eden (Pen 69. Try 72. Con 80), Koster, Cochrane
London Scottish: Ingall, Stevenson, Creed, Gordon, Hibberd (Try 36), Magie (Con 66), Gowling, Harris, Malcom, Whyte, Jurevicius, Frost (Tries 6, 66), Eliet, Wynne, Bright. Bench: Harding, Brodley, Cringle, Sheriff, Tyas, Barton, Sheppard, Luca-Smith.
Referee: Hamish Smales
MOTM: Jack Preece (Hartpury)