Richmond back to winning ways

First published in Richmond

Steve Hill praised the character of his players as Richmond returned to winning ways with an authoritative seven-try 45-12 defeat of Dings Crusaders.

The home side dominated territory and possession and, with a reliable forward platform, ran the ball at every opportunity to claim five more precious points in the promotion race.

With Old Albanians and Worthing also claiming five points, albeit with rather less margin, the promotion race is now mathematically down to three sides, with three games to go.

"This was exactly the type of reaction I expected from this group of players," said director or rugby Hill.

"They wanted to put right the wrongs of Launceston and did so in emphatic style.

"I thought our ambition and execution were excellent and the whole squad knows we will need to maintain these standards in the remaining games.

"I am already looking forward to what will be a cracking match away at Henley."

Richmond made four changes from the previous week, two in the backs and two in the forwards. The team showed their intent from the opening minute, taking a tap and go with the first kickable penalty of the match. All the early play was around the Dings 22 and there was a reassuring inevitability about the first try, scored after ten minutes. George Merrick, Richmond’s all action man of the match, took a line out ball and a training ground move saw the pack rumble to the line, where Dings just managed to collapse the maul. However, when the ball was recycled, good hands from Merrick and prop Timmy Walford provided enough space for Will Browne to touch down in the corner. Tom Platt converted well to give his side the comfort of an early seven point lead.

With Paul Nash moving the ball quickly away from the contact area, Richmond were able to keep constant pace in their game and Dings were forced on to the back foot, conceding more and more penalties. When the scrum half ran another tap back at Dings, the visitors were pinged for a high tackle and Luke Cousins kicked deep into the 22. From the line out, the ball was recycled and Will Browne powered into the centre from the blindside wing to hand off the opposition centre in familiar style and provide a well timed scoring pass to Tom Chesters. Platt again converted well.

At this stage, Dings finally started to get some possession and earned a spell in the Richmond half. The home defence looked very secure but fly half Mitch Burton skilfully chipped the onrushing defence and Sam Craven was just ahead of the cover to claim the try, which Burton converted.

With half an hour gone, the Richmond lead was now only seven points, despite almost total domination of the game. If home nerves were starting to fray a little, two tries in the next ten minutes put things right and nailed down the bonus point before half time.

Under constant pressure, Dings half cleared to Tom Chesters who ran back well to set up position for the supporting forwards to drive on into the 22. In desperate defence, Dings hooker Dave Wheeler was penalised and then yellow carded for killing the ball under his posts. Richmond opted for a scrum and, from secure ball, Tom Gregory stepped inside his man to pop a scoring pass to Browne for his second try, the conversion hitting the post.

The fourth try also came from the set piece, Richmond turning the Dings scrum to claim the put in under the posts. When scrum half Nash was held, Merrick was in close support and swivelled with some athleticism to complete the key fourth try. Platt’s conversion provided a reassuring 26-7 half time score line.

If Richmond now felt able to relax a bit, Dings soon emphasised that concentration must be maintained. A rare gap in the home defensive line allowed Burton to nip through and he was well supported as the ball was moved through several hands before No 8 Buster Lawrence claimed a well worked try.

With the wind now gusting strongly, handling mistakes crept in and frustratingly spoiled several opportunities. Burton continued to probe the home defence with some astute kicking. But Richmond were aggressive and well co-ordinated with their rush defence and remained full of running in attack. Dings were soon back under the cosh.

After several near misses, the fifth try came from Tom Gregory, after the impressive Duncan Peters had made a powerful break. With all the ‘bench’ getting a run out, it was another substitute Ali Lyon who started the next try scoring move, feeding the ball out from a turnover ball. Chris Davies made another long legged break and a finely judged pass, so nearly intercepted, found Peters on the outside, the winger bursting thirty metres down the touchline to outpace the cover to the corner. Luke Cousins added an excellent conversion.

The last try of the game came in the 73rd minute. Browne was once more in the action, turning over ball, and when a Gregory chip to the line appeared very slightly overhit, substitute Harison Edwards appeared like a gazelle to beat everyone to the touchdown for the final try in an entertaining and commanding team performance.

Tries: Browne (2), Chesters, Merrick, Gregory, Peters, Edwards

Conversions: Platt (3), Cousins (2)

Team: T.Platt (D.Peters), W.Browne, T.Gregory, B.Pascall, T.Chesters, L.Cousins, P.Nash (T.Drewe), K.Sinckler (A.Lyon), J.Phipps (D.Burr), T.Walford, W.Warden, G.Merrick, T.George (H.Edwards), C.Davies, J.Thompson.

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