Ealing Trailfinders 27 Richmond 20
With the last kick of the game, Rob Kirby stroked over a penalty from half way out to seal a point from the toughest of fixtures against old adversaries Ealing Trailfinders. The Trailfinders are one of the form teams in the Championship, having climbed to fourth place after a slow start to the season. Richmond showed that their improvement has been every bit as impressive, coming back from a 19-3 deficit in another cussed and tenacious performance.
There was just one change from the winning Bedford team, the injured Will Browne replaced by Jordan Simpson-Hefft. Eight of the visitors’ team started the home game against Ealing, which was lost 12-38. The opening minutes were scrappy, Richmond coming under pressure at the first scrum. However, it was the visitors who opened the scoring after seven minutes, Kirby kicking the penalty after two high tackles. The lead did not last long. Luke Daniels, always dangerous, almost broke through in the next minute before a knock on but, when Richmond in turn knocked on, fly half Aaron Penberthy hoisted a high kick to the left wing. The two Richmond defenders seemed to hesitate over who was going to claim the ball and, when neither did, James Cordy-Redden soared high to secure possession and find the path to the line clear. He duly cantered in from thirty metres and Penberthy added a good conversion for a 7-3 lead.
Ealing were now dominating possession and territory and Richmond did not help themselves with two successive lineout penalties, though the second one looked rather harsh. Richmond did well to defend the initial drive but, when the ball was moved out left and back again, prop Rupert Harden was somehow the wide man and he had no chance of stopping winger Miles Mantella, just recruited from London Welsh.
Winger Simpson-Hefft did well to force an error from the kick off to provide his team with a good attacking platform. But Richmond were penalised for obstruction in the 22 and Ealing returned to the attack. This time the powerful centre Joe Munro made the half break to find space for the speeding Cordy-Redden to score his second try, converted by Penberthy for a 19-3 lead. Richmond had looked tentative in the opening half hour, perhaps adjusting to the artificial pitch and offering too much respect to their well drilled opponents. However, roused by skipper Will Warden, the visitors now had their best spell of the half. A strong passage of play in the Ealing 22 was cut short by an unfortunate penalty for crossing. However Richmond returned to the attack, bolstered by a scrum penalty. The Ealing defence was forceful, driving attacks back well behind the gain line but Richmond persisted and, on the stroke of half time, Warden claimed the line out ball and the forwards drove over, Jack Allcock getting the touchdown and Kirby adding the conversion.
The pressure remained monumental in the second half, the game played almost exclusively in the Richmond half. After thirteen minutes, the Trailfinders got their bonus try from a well worked midfield move, which seemed to involve a hint of obstruction. This time flanker Arthur Ellis was the provider and Mantella the scorer.
With Llewellyn Jones and Barney Maddison dominant in the line out, Richmond were mostly having to live off scraps but they were obliged to their scrum for the next score. Getting the shove on their opponents, the pack provided space for the excellent Chris Davies to make good ground into the 22. He was well supported and, after a couple more pick and drives, Harden burrowed over for his first club try, indeed rumoured to be his first senior try. Kirby added a crucial conversion.
Ealing returned to the attack but somehow Richmond held out with some really gutsy defence, Ronnie McLean-Dents, Warden and Allcock always to the fore. In the 75th minute, Richmond achieved a small moral victory when their opponents elected to kick for goal to give themselves a winning buffer, rather than continue to batter the line. It was a good decision as Richmond then mounted one of their best attacks, Harison Edwards stopped a metre short before a penalty was conceded for holding on. Still Richmond persisted and Tom Sargeant did well to charge down a clearance kick to maintain territory around the 22. And then right at the end, the Ealing hooker was pinged for a shove. Richmond turned to ice man Kirby to secure the vital point, which reduces the deficit behind Rotherham Titans to five points with five games to go. Ealing remain fourth and, if they stay in the play offs, will provide tough opponents for any other team.
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Steve Hill, Richmond Director of Rugby, commented; ‘Today’s performance, result and bonus point gained show just how much improvement this squad has made. We pushed Ealing all the way and simply refused to give up. Our scrum and driving maul caused real problems for the hosts. Some of the collisions were brutal and we gave as good as we got. Skipper Will Warden was simply huge in the contact area. We have now gained a losing bonus point off three of the top 4 teams and in the league table Rotherham are very much in our sights. Today’s performance needs to be the springboard for an even better one at home against Nottingham next week’
Tries: Allcock, Harden
Conversions: Kirby (2)
Team: R.Kirby, J.Simpson-Hefft, R.McLean-Dents, C.Mitchell, J.Woodward, R.Damant (F.Gabitass), S.Stuart, J.Tarrant (J.Cunnew), R.Grimstone (R.Townsend), R.Harden (T.Walford), W.Warden,, M.Corker (H.Edwards), A.Peters, C.Davies, J. Allcock (T.Sargeant).