Hartpury 41 - Exeter University 18
After a tight first half, Hartpury stunned the reigning BUCS champions with a scintillating display of second half running that yielded four tries.
Conditions were perfect in Gloucestershire as the teams came out to a fast, dry pitch with only a stiffening breeze to worry the players.
Exeter took advantage of a hesitant start from the home team to grab an early lead when centre Ted Landray slotted a simple penalty after Hartpury had been caught in front of their posts, but it was not too long before momentum started to move in the other direction.
Fast hands put winger James Neal clear in the 11th minute and he had the pace to score a try converted from wide out by Sam Leeming. Minutes later, Hartpury were further ahead as a result of more attacking flair.
Full-back Victor Pisano showed good pace to come into the line before chipping ahead. Maliq Holden, on his wing, was first to the ball and his feed back inside was good enough to give the Frenchman the chance to continue his run to the corner. Leeming kicked again to give Hartpury a healthy cushion.
Throughout the half Hartpury continued to look good with the ball, but Exeter are champions for a reason and their strong forwards kept them very much in the game. Landray converted another shot with a quarter gone and they were right back on Hartpury’s heels 10 minutes later.
A scrum penalty was kicked deep into home territory and although Hartpury defended well against a series of drives, Exeter always looked likely so score – number 8 James McRae adding to their tally with a close range finish under the posts, which Landray improved.
With only one point separating the teams at the break, it seemed as though we were in for a tight affair, although Hartpury had the advantage of the wind to come.
Allsopp was next to score for the hosts (pictured) after more good work from Holden, now coming in from full-back where he had replaced the injured Pisano.
Any elation that Hartpury may have felt was short-lived, however, as another penalty to touch gave the Exeter pack the chance to drive over, McRae again getting the final touch.
As if to prove that they were not to be out-muscled, it was Hartpury’s turn next as replacement prop forward Alex Gibson was swept over to restore the advantage, the try superbly converted by Leeming to make it 26-18.
Hartpury were ticking over nicely now and with Leeming using the wind well they repeatedly pinned Exeter back in their own half. A break from flanker-turned-hooker Joe Mullis brought the next score as he powered home from half way, while a penalty from in front by Leeming put the home team more than two scores ahead.
With Hartpury cruising towards the finish, Jamie Forrester put a final gloss on the scoresheet after being set free by Holden, who was showing up well again.
The winning margin was no less than Hartpury deserved after playing with enterprise from start to finish. Exeter will certainly improve from this, but two opening defeats was not what they wanted.
Two wins from two is the perfect start for the Red & Blacks who will seek to continue the run against rivals from across the bridge, Cardiff Met, in Wales next week. Exeter, meanwhile, will be hoping that a home fixture with Northumbria will give them the chance to get their show on the road.
Hartpury: Pisano (Try 15), Holden, Forrester (Try 74), Allsopp (Try 45), Neal (Try 11), Leeming (Cons 11, 15, 57, 75; Pen 59), Cochrane: Wrafter, Stratford, Bachurzewski, Harper, Negri, Wilson, Bowden, Morris. Replacements: Mullis (Try 61), Barron, Gibson (Try 57), Sharpley, Agnew, Coombes, Forbes.
Exeter: Wilcock, Thorne, Landray (Con 30; Pens 3, 20), Swash, Warne, Wicks, Bagwell; Owlett, Briler, Roofe, Skinner, Hosking, Rouse, Lawday, McRae (Tries 30, 51). Replacements: Young, Rhodes, Eliet, Lorimer, Ducourbeau, Holdsworth, Himbury
Referee Mr A Woodthorpe