Bishop's Stortford 31 Hartpury 21
CHAMPIONS Hartpury concluded their season with a loss at Bishop’s Stortford, who leapfrogged Canterbury into third place in their maiden campaign in National Two South.
In baking sunshine and on a flawless playing surface, the game ebbed and flowed as two highly mobile sides looked to make the most of their pace across the field.
Stortford’s greater desire and discipline in defence eventually told, but Hartpury’s defeat was academic as they played their last match in the division before making their National One bow next season.
The visitors started brightly and took just four minutes to open the scoring when Terry Fanolua broke clear and released Jaike Carter. Billy Burns slotted the extras.
The lead was shortlived as the Stortford pack rumbled over from a catch-and-drive with surprising ease, with Stephen Ball claiming the try that Tom Coleman duly improved.
Hartpury restored their advantage courtesy of a penalty try after the hosts collapsed a series of mauls deep inside their own 22.
But Stortford were defiant and Jonny Neville reduced the arrears to two points as he finished a superb team score, before full-back Nick Hankin weaved his way through for a brilliant solo effort converted by Coleman.
The see-saw battle continued and Carter bagged a second out wide after Stortford lost possession in a dangerous area, with Burns’ third conversion giving the college a narrow lead at the break.
The hosts began the second half strongly and profited from a mass brawl as the officials singled out Hartpury hooker Will Tanner, who had only replaced Chris Fortey seconds earlier, for a yellow card.
Stortford made the visitors pay immediately as their scrum drove their depleted counterparts back, earning a penalty try that secured the bonus point.
Hartpury had chances to haul themselves back into the game, but they failed to capitalise on their opportunities in the face of an unyielding home defence.
And a breakaway score from centre Neville, who found himself in acres of space from Coleman’s crossfield kick after Hankin had kicked through all the way from his own try line, sealed the win five minutes from time.
BISHOP’S STORTFORD: N Hankin; J Rea, S Winter, J Neville, J Child; T Coleman, A Mahoney (T Banks 59); W Roberts (T McCrone 54), S James, S Edwards (R Young 54); C Aldam, J George; S Ball, R Gill (H Michell 39-41, 66), M McCraith. Not used: W Child
HARTPURY: G Thompson; S Reynolds, G Boulton, T Fanolua (S Rodwell 46), J Carter; B Burns, B Vellacott; J Gibbons, C Fortey (W Tanner 46), W Thompson (J Litchfield 46); D McKee (T MacDonald 58), R Moriarty; T Ailes, A Woodburn (C Fortey 50-58), N Thomas (M Spencer 70)
REFEREE: James Clarke (RFU)