Strong first half provides pre-season encouragement for Hartpury

In beautiful sunshine, this game entertained a good pre-season crowd, swollen by large numbers who had travelled up from South Wales.

Brotherly love… The Smith boys celebrate Sam’s first half try. LNC Images

Osprey’s Director of Rugby, the experienced Toby Booth, pronounced himself to be well-pleased with the exercise saying, “It was a brilliant game for us in terms of bench-marking where we are.”

“It took us 30 minutes to get ourselves sorted out, but after that I was happy with the fundementals of our game and there were lots of positives to take out of it.”

As a contest, it was tight for the first 40 minutes as Hartpury fronted up well to their URC opponents, taking a 19-14 lead into the break after three well-taken tries.

After the interval it was clear that the Ospreys had the greater strength in depth, as they ran in a number of scores against a heavily-changed Hartpury outfit.

This may have been an Ospreys missing many of its ‘superstars’, but there was still plenty of rugby talent on display, including Wales scrum-half Rhys Webb and the country’s all-time record try scorer in international sevens, Luke Morgan.

For Hartpury, there were starting debuts for scrum-half JB Bruzulier and for centre Charlie Foley, as well as for Xavier Hastings and Oli Robinson in the back row.  Gloucester Rugby loanee, Cameron Jordan, made his first start in the second row.

JB Bruzulier made a strong impression on debut. LNC Images

Ospreys enjoyed the lion’s share of possession throughout the game, but Hartpury defended strongly in the first half, with particular effectiveness at the breakdown, and were quick to seize the opportunities that presented themselves.

The first of those came early, when some rusty Osprey’s handling was pounced upon by Charlie Foley.  The ball was quickly transferred via Robbie Smith to the younger Foley, Ben, who raced away to score.

Ospreys then laid siege to the Hartpury line but could not find a way over until some sharp work by Webb provided a simple finish under the posts for former international full-back, Dan Evans.  

Hartpury enjoyed their best spell of the game in the second quarter.  Rare pressure in the Osprey’s 22 saw Bruzulier make a clever blind-side break for winger Sam Smith to score and it got better for the home side three minutes later.

Turn-over ball again provided the opportunity for a razor-sharp counter from deep and, although Ben Foley was dragged down three metres short, Bruzulier was backing up well to cap a strong debut performance with a try.

Xavier Hastings was part of a hard-working Hartpury back row. LNC Images

Ospreys narrowed the gap on the stroke of half time, hooker Ifan Phillips bursting over from an attacking line-out after Hartpury had come second best in a kicking duel, and snatched the lead immediately after the break when Jac Morgan profited from some weak home tackling.

From then on, there was only one side in it as Hartpury’s legion of replacements could not maintain the first half intensity.

Tries came at regular intervals with Ifan Phillips crossing again, before Garyn Phillips, Luke Morgan and Matthew Aubrey all collected five-pointers.

Ethan Hunt added a late consolation for Hartpury from the final play of the game. The final score was 24-49.

After the match, Mark Cornwell was positive regarding his team’s first-half display.

“We were under pressure for a good 25 minutes of the first half and I was pleased with the way we stood up. Our backs looked very sharp – we put them under pressure and were able to capitalise on their mistakes.”

“The boys can be very happy with that first half.”

Hartpury can now look forward to a ‘behind closed doors’ session with the Bristol Bears next Friday, before we travel to Ealing Trailfinders for the opening game of the 2021-22 season on Saturday, September 18th.

Hartpury’s next home fixture will be on 25th September, in Round 2 of The Championship, when we welcome the Cornish Pirates to the Alpas.

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