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Hartpury get set for the final furlong in title race

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: March 06, 2014

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Hartpury enter the final furlong of their marathon National One campaign with a trip to mid-table Shelford on Saturday.

The long-time leaders have seen their advantage at the top trimmed from 12 points to seven in recent weeks with nearest challengers Canterbury refusing to give up the chase.

Canterbury have a tricky fixture themselves on Saturday – a trip to Redruth – but Hartpury director of rugby Alan Martinovic is not banking on the Cornish side doing them a favour.

Martinovic refused to get carried away when his pacesetters enjoyed a double-figure points advantage earlier in the year and he said: “I wasn’t being guarded about our position. I really do believe that everyone is scrapping for something and that eveyone can beat everyone.

“It’s so tight throughout the league. Normally if you get to 50 points you’d say you were safe from relegation but this year a team may go down with 60. That’s unheard of and shows how competitive the league is.”

Shelford have lost their last three league games and their most recent defeat was a 25-20 loss at Canterbury.

“They said a couple of weeks ago that they wanted to win one of their next two games,” said Martinovic. “Well, they lost at Canterbury so they will want to put one over us.”

Hartpury, who after Saturday’s game have six league games remaining, are still without their players who are on England Under-20 duty.

They have few injury concerns but Martinovic still faces some difficult selection issues.

“Our problem at this stage of the season is that we are also in the latter rounds of the university competition,” he said.

“We’re in the quarter-finals of the BUCS Cup and it’s something other clubs in our league don’t have to contend with.

“It puts a lot of pressure on the squad trying to juggle it and it makes selection more difficult.”

Hartpury have won the BUCS Cup on a number of occasions in recent seasons and Martinovic would like to complete a league and cup double in the next couple of months.

“Winning promotion is a high priority but we have an outstanding record in the BUCS and we are are hoping to emulate our past performances,” he said.

Hartpury travel to play Canterbury on March 29.

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