Nottingham were back under the lights at the Bay for the first time this season, but Hartpury spoiled the party as they survived a late comeback attempt to hold onto a lead they had kept since their first try inside the first three minutes.
It was Jarrard Hayler who dove over the line for Hartpury early on after a good-looking attack cut through the green and white defence with pace.
However, Nottingham responded well, coming up with a try of their own just four minutes later. Newly signed centre Daffydd Rhys Tiueti returned a poor clearing kick up to inside the 22 and after a couple of phases, the referee awarded the home side a penalty, which Morgan Bunting dully kicked to the corner. Jacob Wright finished a well-executed driving maul from the lineout, pushing his way over the line for five points.
Despite the try, Nottingham were still behind as Morgan Bunting’s conversion attempt sailed just to the left of the posts. They stayed on the front foot though and controlled possession for the next ten minutes.
Richard Clift even began what looked like a promising attack by burst through a gap in the middle of the pitch. The big number eight didn’t have the pace to go all the way, but he had Tiueti with him, but the offload didn’t have the legs and Hartpury scooped it up and kicked it away.
That wasn’t the end of it though, as Notts rallied and worked their way back into a good position just moments later, but they weren’t able to get the last pass right, knocking it on and letting the visitors off the hook for the second time in less than a minute.
Hartpury punished the Green and Whites for not capitalising on their opportunities with a a swift attack very reminiscent of their first try. It was the full back Alex Morgan who raced over the line to finish in the right-hand corner and extend his team’s lead.
With the half was quickly coming to a close, Harry Bazelegette slotted a penalty 35 metres out to give the visitors a 10-point lead heading into the break.
Nottingham knew they needed to start the second half strong to get back into the game, and so nearly had a try almost immediately after the restart. A Bunting kick was poorly dealt with and the ball rolled loose just in front of the try line. Marcus Ramage won the race to the ball and was moments away from sealing the try, but he misjudged the bounce and knocked it on right under the posts.
Hartpury came back with a couple of promising looking attacks of their own but couldn’t break through and get their third try of the night, though they were able to keep the scoreboard ticking over with another penalty courtesy of Bazalegette.
The penalty really did give Nottingham a wake-up call, and they dominated possession for the next twenty minutes, pushing for the try to and eat into the Gloucestershire side’s lead.
Eventually they did get another big chance, as Will Yarnell raced around a couple of Hartpury defenders inside the 22 and passed it wide to David Williams. However, some excellent last-ditch defending stopped him in his tracks, and a knock on from the following phase allowed the visitors to clear their lines.
Craig Hammond’s men did finally get the try they were looking for with ten minutes left. David Williams used his pace to break through the first defensive line and set up the attack. A couple of phases later and Nottingham found themselves to have a three-on-one opportunity on the left-hand side and it was the hooker Harry Clayton out wide who received the long pass to finish in the corner.
After Nathan Chamberlain converted another penalty to put the visitors 11 points to the good, Notts were back on the attack. Harry Clayton pushed over once again for the try making it just a four-point game with less than five minutes to go.
The Green and Whites did everything the could to get that all-important final try to take the lead, working the ball all the way up inside the 22 and winning a penalty for a high tackle with the clock in the red. Sam Hollingsworth kicked to the corner and the game would be decided by the outcome of the following lineout. Unfortunately, the pass in sailed over the heads of both team’s lineouts and was collected by Hartpury, all but ending the game.
Nottingham will have another big test in the Premiership Cup next weekend as they travel down to London to take on Saracens at Stonex Stadium.