Barnstaple earned promotion from National League 3 South West to National 2 (South) last season after a tussle with Devonian opposition, Exmouth, and so gained the highest league position in their history. Exmouth won the final match of the season, 38-24 which meant Barnstaple finishing second and a tricky play-off in Kent against Tonbridge Juddians. In what was an epic contest, Barum won 31-30 thanks to a last minute penalty by scrum-half, Jordan Petherbridge with the help of 1,000 travelling supporters! Petherbridge and their vociferous supporters have been important factors in bringing about the finest moment in Barum’s history since they were founded in 1877.
This season, they continue their influence as the Hawks can vouch for when they lost at Barnstaple, 31-24 on a wet drizzly day in late December. Petherbridge scoring 16 points on that occasion. Evidence of their resilience is shown by pulling off one of the surprises of the season in their last game, defeating sixth placed Cinderford 21-13 at home. The place kicking of Petherbridge was again a deciding factor as he contributed three penalties and a conversion.
However, Barum are one of four teams striving to avoid joining Exmouth in relegation with five points between them. In recent seasons, Barnstaple’s defence has been one of their principle qualities. The Hawks, for their part, have scored 59 points in their last two games but their defence has leaked 66. Barum will be strongly motivated to win whilst the Hawks, secure in the league for another season, will be wanting to move above Clifton and Canterbury and finish just one place below local rivals Redingensians Rams.
The team selected for this Saturday’s game is significantly stronger and will form the nucleus of the side available for next season when they have ambitions to finish in one of the higher positions. The pack has now become more settled in it’s composition and will be enhanced by the inclusion of Rob Bell in the back row returning after injury. The backs will feature only one player that played at Barnstaple in December, fly-half Joe Butler, who is now establishing a good partnership at half-back with Harry Burn. They will also benefit with the inclusion of Tom Parton at full back who has been released by London Irish, with whom he is dual registered. Parton was part of the England Under 20’s Grand Slam winning side, having played in all the games in that position.
Saturday will also mark a significant day for Jim Hadfield, who coming out of semi-retirement in October, will be playing his 200th game for the Hawks having previously played at Coventry.
15.Tom Parton, 14. Sam Portland, 13. Alan Awcock, 12. Liam O’Neill, 11. Xavier Andre, 10. Joe Butler,9. Harry Burn, 1. Jim Hadfield , 2. Stuart Philpott, 3. Dave Manning, 4. Dave Clements (capt,), 5. Jake Albon, 6.TomHall, 7. Rob Bell, 8. David Hyde,
16. Simon Perry, 17. Bradley Cook, 18. Ziana Montout–Alexis, 19. Macus Lowe 20. Scott White/Tom Emery