A thrilling West Country derby saw BUCS Super Rugby league leaders Hartpury College overturn a half-time deficit to beat the University of Bath 24-14 – after a spirited display from the home side.
Two tries from Hartpury’s Harry Cochrane proved crucial in the visitors’ fight back after Bath scored within the opening minute to kick-start a fast-paced contest and went to the break 8-7 ahead.
The result extends Hartpury’s lead at the top of the table to five points whilst Bath drop to sixth place behind Cardiff Met University.
Home side Bath flew out of the traps at the Sports Training Village, piling immediate pressure on their West Country rivals. And the aggression paid off when Dan Rowland collected from his own clever chip over the Hartpury defence to score in the right-hand corner.
Strong winds put both sides’ kickers firmly to the test and Hugo Stiles’ missed conversion was the first of many unsuccessful attempts throughout the match thwarted largely by the conditions.
After scoring, Bath continued to dominate the opening exchanges, with the home team’s ever-impressive forwards successful with a number of lineout drives.
The visitors were struggling at the lineout, giving away possession twice in quick succession from promising positions, and then missing a penalty opportunity when Sam Leeming missed the posts.
Hartpury turned on the style in bursts, though, and a spell of real quality saw Cochrane go over for his first try after good work from Jamie Forrester to break through the Bath defence.
An impressive long-distance penalty kick from Stiles before half-time restored Bath’s lead to 8-7 ast half-time.
If it was Bath who came out of the blocks quicker in the first half, it was Hartpury’s turn in the second and a period of pressure from the travelling team soon paid off when a lineout drive resulted in a converted try which again saw the lead change hands.
Just 11 minutes into the second half, Hartpury scored again after overturning a Bath scrum which allowed the quick-thinking Cochrane to take advantage of a penalty to go alone, darting between players to cross the line.
At 21-8, the home side looked dead and buried, but a drop-goal from Ludi Hopkinson and a penalty from Stiles brought the Blue and Gold back within reach.
But it was to be Hartpury who had the final say, and a Leeming penalty with minutes from time both denied Bath a consolidation bonus point and any hopes of a comeback.
University of Bath Head Coach Mark Lilley said after the game: “We’re very disappointed but we didn’t let ourselves down in terms of our performance.
“A few things didn’t go our way at key times in the game and ultimately that cost us,” the former Bath Rugby player continued.
“Hartpury are a very good side and the fact we’re disappointed we didn’t take the points today is a good sign.”
Hartpury captain Seb Negri added: “We weren’t surprised at all at the fight Bath put up. We know they are physical but they also like to play football.
“We wanted to look for a reaction today as we lost to Exeter last week which was a bit of a wake-up call to be honest,” he continued.
“It was important to play the wind right tonight, we felt, and the boys showed great spirt in the second half.
“Full credit to Bath they put up a good fight and played some good rugby”.
The University of Bath men’s 1st XV will next be in action on Wednesday (December 14) when they travel to Leeds Beckett University for the final game before the Christmas break.
University of Bath starting XV: 1 Greg Palmer, 2 Tom Doughty, 3 Alex Wood, 4 Will Britton (C), 5 Jack Davies, 6 Alex Weighton, 7 Adam McCarthy, 8 Tom Kynge, 9 Jack Turner, 10 Ludo Hopkinson, 11 Hugo Styles, 12 Robbie de Bruyn, 13 Craig Duncan, 14 Dan Rowland, 15 George Humphreys.
Replacements: 16 George Frampton, 17 Austin Hay, 18 Conor McGrath, 19 Mike Snook, 20 Freddie Avis
Tries: Dan Rowland (1min)
Penalties: Hugo Stiles (2)
Drop-goals: Ludi Hopkinson (1)
Hartpury College starting XV: 1 Alfie Barron, 3 Alex Gibson, 4 Henry Harper, 5 Seb Negri (C), 6 Harry Wilson, 7 Tom Pashley, 8 Morgan Morris, 9 Harry Cochrane, 10 Sam Leeming, 11 Gift Sankoh, 12 Jamie Forrester, 13 Jamie Cooke, 14 Rhys Tudor, 15 Maliq Holden, 16 Luke Stratford.
Replacements: 20 Harry Agnew
Tries: Harry Cochrane (25min and 51min), 1 Other (45min)
Conversions: Sam Leeming (3)
Penalties: Sam Leeming (1)
For further information contact: The Team Bath Press office on 01225 383518 or firstname.lastname@example.org