Richmond 49 Bedford Blues 26
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Richmond played some wonderful rugby to stun visitors Bedford with a seven try victory, providing further evidence that they can compete with confidence in the Championship. After the frustration of the trip to Rotherham, this was the perfect response, the defensive line constantly forcing Bedford errors, and, in attack, backs and forwards supporting each other in some exhilarating play. Bedford played a full part in an entertaining, all action game and deserved their bonus point for their fourth try, scored in the 78th minute.
Two early penalties set the Blues up in the home 22 and the visitors took full advantage. From the line out, the forwards mauled forward, before spreading the ball right and then back across the field, creating space on the left touchline. Nevertheless young Saracen George Perkins excelled in spinning off a covering tackle to dive in at the corner. Jake Sharp added an excellent conversion.
The lead lasted four minutes. Will Browne, Richmond’s undoubted Man of the Match, set the tone with a barnstorming run into the 22, freeing Matt Corker to make another fifteen metres, the defence holding off and waiting for a pass. The lock did well to delay till a couple of metres out when a neat offload to Chris Davies sent the No 8 through for a confidence boosting try, converted by Rob Kirby in another display of faultless kicking.
Richmond were now pressed into some serious defensive duties. Bedford had two five-metre lineouts, young Northampton lock Jordan Onojaife to the fore. However Richmond held the drive with some aggressive defence and, gaining possession from the tackle, broke back with a strong run by Cameron Mitchell. From the subsequent play Rory Damant threaded a neat grubber into the Bedford defence, creating muddle and a penalty for blocking. Skipper Will Warden claimed the line out ball and, in copybook style, the forwards drove to the line, Jack Allcock the try scorer.
Bedford No 8 Jason Hill was regularly prominent and now made an excellent break to half way but his offload was knocked on as Richmond scrambled back. The game was increasingly fast and furious and Mitchell and Kirby countered immediately to set their side up in the 22. With players running some excellent lines, Richmond maintained the pressure through several phases before Sam Stuart found space to dart over close to the posts.
With plenty of quick ball, Richmond looked full of running and were taking increasing control of the game. Allcock, Davies and Adam Peters were outstanding in the back row, the front five dominating the close encounters. The Blues held out against a sequence of five-metre lineouts at the cost of a yellow card for Josh Buggea. Richmond knocked on the next line out but the reprieve was temporary, danger man Mitchell the try bonus point scorer after some more excellent interplay and continuity.
Facing a 28-7 deficit at half time, the Blues came out, determined to run the home side off their feet. They were given early encouragement when the wily Sharp spotted a gap as the home defence spread out and zipped through it before offloading to Richmond old boy Jordan Burns, who finished from thirty metres. The conversion left Bedford two scores behind and for a while Richmond came under renewed pressure.
The result was probably settled in the 50th minute. Further high class handling and support almost resulted in a try in the corner. The Bedford cover just held out but, when the ball was moved back across the field, a defensive knock on was acknowledged by referee Tim Wigglesworth, who played advantage. Jono Woodward retrieved the ball, spun on his heels and showed his pace to run a lovely diagonal line to the line.
The speed of the game was unrelenting as the Blues scored next, hooker Dan George spinning off a maul. Scrum half Burns then made a decisive break but was stopped by Browne, who was everywhere in defence and attack. Appropriately he was next to score, playmaker Damant making the initial break before completing the move with a lovely wide pass to the winger. Browne’s day was far from done as his next contribution was a wonderful cover tackle on his opposite number Pat Tapley, Jordan Simpson-Hefft contributing additionally to deny a certain looking try. In the 76th minute, Browne was there again, pirouetting into the 22, to initiate another attack, elegantly completed with an arcing run and step by the impressive Mitchell.
Still the Blues persevered and, to their enormous credit, launched a last attack up the right touchline. With several players struggling with cramp, the defence was just off the pace and the strong running Tapley broke clear to give his side the consolation of a bonus point.
Steve Hill, Richmond FC Director of Rugby, commented; ‘This was by some way our best performance of the season so far. The players were put through some brutal contact training this week and they took this onto the field against Bedford. Our hunger and desire to support the ball carrier or prevent the opposition line break was superb. The back row of Davies, Allcock and Peters were everywhere whilst Will Browne’s energy and physical commitment were outstanding. The challenge is to repeat this level of performance for the remaining games of the season. If anyone had doubted Richmond’s right to be in the Championship those doubts were totally blown away on Saturday’
Tries: Davies, Allcock, Stuart, Mitchell (2), Woodward, Browne
Conversions: Kirby(6), Gabbitass
Team: R.Kirby (J.Simpson-Hefft), J.Woodward, R.McLean-Dents, C.Mitchell, W.Browne, R.Damant (F.Gabbitass), S.Stuart(J.Gibbs) J.Tarrant (J.Cunnew), R.Grimstone (R.Townsend), R.Harden (T.Walford), W.Warden,, M.Corker (H.Edwards), A.Peters, C.Davies, J. Allcock.