Hartpury College 24 Fylde 32
Indiscipline and lack of composure were unwelcome visitors at Hartpury on Saturday, where the hosts fell some way short of the standards set in recent wins over Macclesfield and Esher.
Despite having a big edge in the tight – the Fylde scrum was in pieces by the final quarter – the students rarely looked like unlocking the visiting defence. Not until the final 10 minutes did Hartpury cross the try-line, with both late efforts owing everything to forward dominance.
Too often, Hartpury were ineffective with the ball in hand. More than one opportunity was squandered through a speculative kick or off-load, when retaining possession and showing some patience would have been the better option.
Fylde, by contrast, scored four tries through their wide men, despite rarely having the forward platform that the final scoreline suggests.
Hartpury were not helped by a tendency to give away penalties. Several attacking situations were lost as a result and the visitors used the field position to good advantage.
Both sides had lost players to the sin-bin before nine minutes had passed. Hartpury’s Joe Batley was adjudged guilty of dangerous play, whilst Stewart’s use of the forearm allowed Gareth Thompson to put the home side into a three point lead.
Most of the early pressing was coming from the northerners and the breakthrough came on 17 minutes when full-back Warren Spragg was on hand to score after the forwards had created a good position under the Hartpury posts. Johnson added the conversion.
Hartpury enjoyed one of their better spells immediately after the try. Twice Fylde were penalised in front of their posts and Thompson was clinical to put the hosts back into a 9-7 lead.
It was an advantage that they may have taken into the break, but a cross-field kick was well executed for the visitors and good hands saw winger Jordan Dorrington cross the line to get Fylde back in front and still time for Johnson penalty to give then a 15-9 half-time lead.
Both sides exchanged penalties early in the second half before Oli Brennand showed why he is the league’s leading try-scorer. Hartpury were clumsy at the breakdown and the ball broke kindly for the winger, who still had plenty to do from well inside his own half.
On 65 minutes the result was effectively sealed when Scott Rawlings barged through some fairly lacklustre defence to pick up the bonus point for Fylde.
The game became increasingly tetchy in the final quarter, with referee Taylorson having to defuse more than one skirmish, the most significant of which occurred after Hartpury had been awarded a penalty try with ten minutes to go.
Arnold, of Fylde, was yellow-carded and Thompson’s conversion gave Hartpury a sniff of a bonus point. However, despite the disintegration of their scrum, Fylde held out for the final, fractious minutes until, with the last play, Ludlow got the touch down for a push-over try.
Thompson was unable to add the extras, which would have earned Hartpury the point.
Next weekend Hartpury get another taste of National League reality, as they contemplate the 500-mile round trip to Darlington Mowden Park.
Hartpury College would like to thank Fylde for their contribution to an entertaining match and we look forward to the return fixture in January.
Hartpury College RFC
Steph Reynolds, Jaike Carter, Tom Griffiths, Craig Jackson, Alex O’Meara, Gareth Thompson, Ben Ellis, Des Merrey, Chris Fortey, Wayne Thompson, Rory Bartle, Joe Batley, Luke Stratford, Callum Bowden, Lewis Ludlow
Bench: Will Tanner, Tim Brockett, James Voss, Mitch Burton, Kai Little
Warren Spragg, Jordan Dorrington, Chris Briers, Scott Rawlings, Oli Brennand, Chris Johnson, Ryan De La Harpe, Simon Griffiths, Thomas Burtonwood, Adam Lewis, Joseph Robinson, Paul Arnold, Ben Vernon, Robert Stewart, Sam Beaumont
Bench: Jonathan Wild, Daniel Maher, David Fairbrother, Mark Goodman, Richard Kenyon
Ref: Andrew Taylorson
Tries Penalty, Ludlow
Pens Thompson (4)
Tries Spragg, Dorrington, Brennand, Rawlings
Cons Johnson (3)
Pens Johnson (2)