Richmond opened their National League 1 campaign with a heart stopping and courageous last minute win against a slightly unfortunate Darlington Mowden Park.
The winning try came in the final minute of injury time and required lengthy consultation between the referee and linesman before being awarded. The result was that Richmond picked up an encouraging five points from their lengthiest away trip of the season. Ambitious DMP had to settle for two.
Richmond fielded a fifteen with only four players who started against London Scottish in the final game of last season. Ten of the 22 were new to the club this season. The afternoon started on the saddest of notes with a minute’s silence for former DMP player Charley Purkiss-McEndoo, who tragically passed away earlier this year.
Returning to the cavernous Mowden Park Arena for the first time in four years, Richmond faced a tough challenge in front of a crowd, which included Bill Sweeney, RFU CEO. Darlington had the best of the early exchanges, Richmond conceding two early penalties, and they took the lead after eight minutes. The initial break was made down the right wing but the ball was then switched across through a number of phases to the left. Richmond appeared to have things covered when Alfie Barron received the ball, hemmed in on the touchline. However, instead of looking for a pass, the prop battered his way forward and shook off an unconvincing tackle to score wide out.
Rob Kirby was a major contributor to Richmond’s win and he made no mistake with two tricky penalties, the second awarded when he jumped well to take a high ball and was tackled in the air. The Richmond defensive line was getting up fast and putting effective pressure on a Darlington side keen to run the ball. Richmond also took every opportunity to pin DMP back with some well angled kicking, Kirby, Jamie Gibbs and Hamish Graham all contributing well.
After twenty minutes, Richmond scored their opening try, building pressure from a line out, taken by Jake Parker. Jimmy Litchfield burrowed over for his fist club try, converted by Kirby. The full-back added a third penalty shortly afterwards and Richmond looked capable of pulling right away. However the kick offs were a crucial source of possession and when Darlington’s Will Montgomery successfully captured the next kick off ball, scrum-half Euan McKirdy got within a few metres of the line. Richmond held out through several phases but a neat scissors in front of the posts allowed Callum McKenzie to touch down under the posts, Warren Seals converting.
Once again, Richmond widened their lead, this time a penalty and an extra ten metres for backchat providing a five metre line-out opportunity. The initial attack was held but Andy Boyce spotted vacant space down the right touchline and had the pace to run round and across to the posts, Kirby’s successful conversion taking the score to 12-23. Richmond were pushed back in defence for the last minutes of the half but held out well, Boyce and skipper Cam Mitchell combining to thwart a final attack in the corner.
DMP opened the second half with continuing intent to throw the ball around and McKirdy’s sniping break attracted a high tackle from Myles Scott, who was given a yellow card. Seals kicked the penalty but Kirby restored his side’s margin with an excellent kick from the wide right. With help from Toby Eaton, the Richmond pack maintained control in the tight. Scott was restored but the game now swung significantly towards the home side. Right wing Shaun McCartney completed a hat trick of tries in seven minutes. The first try followed a loose DMP pass, which fell into space and caused momentary hesitation in the visitors’ defence. The second came from a dropped kick, the winger too easily stepping the cover, and the third followed a lovely chip by Seals, which set centre Ben Frankland clear.
Eight points adrift with eight minutes left, a shell-shocked Richmond looked in trouble. However, a loose DMP ‘up and under’ put their forwards offside and Lewis Dennett kicked to twelve metres. No 8 James Catlin did very well to rescue loose tap ball and get his side back on the front foot before Litchfield drove over. Seals then added a penalty, as Richmond were pushed back in defence. The score was now 37-33 with very little time left. It was that man Kirby, who then made the crucial break into the 22. The forwards had consistently edged the scrums and DMP were under pressure as the scrum was reset three times in front of the posts. Scrum-half Toby Dabell scampered within a metre or two and the pack stayed patient, picking and driving till Callum Torpey got the touch down, to his side’s delight. Referee Alex Thomas correctly checked with his nearest linesman before raising his arm in confirmation, Kirby inevitably maintained his 100% kicking-rate and the celebrations began.
Steve Hill Richmond Director of Rugby, said post-match, "To gain five league points from such a tough away fixture is an excellent start to our campaign. The team showed a huge amount of belief and patience to score with the last play of the game. However there are a number of areas we need to significantly improve on before we face the huge challenge of Chinnor at home next Saturday."
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Richmond 40 beat Darlington Mowden Park 37
Tries: Litchfield 2, Boyce, Torpey
Conversions: Kirby (4)
Pens: Kirby (4)
Other Richmond Results:
Richmond Saxons 40 beat Jersey Athletic 7
Richmond Normans 48 beat St Jacques Vikings 24