Exmouth 32 Hartpury 47
NEWLY crowned National Two South champions Hartpury maintained their 13-point lead at the top of the table with a high-scoring victory over relegated Exmouth.
With seven changes from the trophy-clinching win over Ampthill, the visitors were never going to be at their fluid best against an in-form Exmouth side, who had won two of their last three since relegation.
In a contest where defence was optional at times, the Devonians stayed within a score of their opponents until the final 15 minutes, but Hartpury’s greater firepower up front and in midfield was a constant danger and ultimately proved the difference.
Despite playing into a brisk wind blowing off the adjacent English Channel, the hosts started the stronger and Richard Cadywould kicked the first points on seven minutes. Hartpury scrum-half Ben Vellacott sliced through the middle for a fine individual try six minutes later, only for Exmouth to strike back immediately when Alex Brown intercepted a chip kick and raced home unopposed, with Cadywould converting.
Will Tanner touched down from a catch-and-drive for Hartpury and Gareth Thompson added the extras, but the seesaw battle continued as Vellacott was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on and Cadywould kicked the subsequent penalty.
Even though they had trailed for much of the half, Hartpury went in at half-time with a 19-13 lead as fine phase play resulted in Thompson burrowing over on the whistle for another seven-pointer.
Exmouth needed a fast start to the second half with Hartpury building momentum, and Richard Bright’s try from a Brown crossfield kick was the perfect answer.
But once again they were equally quick to surrender their advantage and Hartpury’s 18-year-old winger Sam Westcott, drafted in from the college’s AASE League-winning team, glided through for a fine solo effort that Thompson improved.
Ross Morshead then dotted down from a driving maul as Exmouth reduced the arrears to one point, but Leonard duly broke through four minutes later to feed Jaike Carter for Hartpury’s fifth try, with Thompson on target again from the tee.
With the game now resembling basketball, the superb Brown crashed into the line to score near the posts and Cadywould converted, seconds before Jimmy Litchfield powered over from close range for Hartpury for yet another seven points.
And Hartpury scored again when Leonard burst through the middle for the game’s 11th and final try eight minutes from time.
EXMOUTH: R Cadywould; A Brown, M Wathes, C Swash (A Goldman 62), R Bright; G Meadows, M Ryan; G Savage (L Chapman 49), J Brooks-Watson (T Emery 68), N Berry (D Pullinger-Ham 41); O Pyne, J Fahy; J Harris, D Bargent, T Lowry (R Morshead 41).
HARTPURY: J Carter; J Unwin, S Leonard, G Boulton, S Westcott; G Thompson, B Vellacott (M Spencer 73); D Merrey (A Clarey 18), W Tanner (N Taylor 58), J Litchfield; W Waldron, D McKee (T MacDonald 57); T Ailes, A Woodburn (K Frowen 65), A Chesters.
REFEREE: Luke Haskins (RFU)