Richmond 35 Cornish Pirates 32
What a game! Richmond and Cornish Pirates fought out a wonderful game of rugby in the last home Championship game of the season, Richmond edging the result to complete a double over their opponents. This time it was a fifth home try which clinched the game in the 78th minute but, once again, the immaculate kicking of Rob Kirby provided a crucial edge to his team. For Richmond, the result guarantees a finishing place above Rotherham Titans, a wonderful effort after losing their first eight league games. To average 2.36 points in the subsequent eleven games is the form of a strong mid table side. As for the unfortunate Cornish, the loss takes nothing from a season in which they have made clear progress to get close to a top four finish.
On a lovely spring day, full back Kirby led out the home team in celebration of his noteworthy 100th cap. Sam Stuart followed, having reached 50 caps, and Jeremy Cunnew reached the same landmark when he came on as substitute. The Pirates were cheered on by a noisy, good-natured following (‘give us an RRRR, Pirates’) and they had plenty to cheer in the first six minutes. First, Jordan Simpson-Hefft kicked an up and under and timed to perfection his follow up tackle on full back Toby May. However, perhaps crowd noise put a seed of doubt in Richmond minds as they seemed to hesitate, giving their opponents space and time to counter. Seconds later, prop Marlen Walker was steaming clear, two men outside and his well-timed pass to Max Bodilly gave the winger an easy run in. Laurence May added the conversion.
With May impressively pulling the strings at fly half, the Cornish looked full of running and four minutes later, the Richmond defence was again found wanting. Kyle Moyle broke the line with some twinkling footwork after his side ran back a box kick clearance. May added the conversion for a rapid 14-0 lead. Richmond needed to raise their game. And they did. Ronnie McLean-Dents, who worked himself to a standstill with his hard running and tackling, found a gap and powered through it, just the full back to beat. Unfortunately, the support was too slow and his inside pass found opposition hooker Tom Channon. However the home forwards were now beginning to gel and some good pressure set up two penalties and a five-metre line out. With Matt Corker in fine form throughout, the ball was secured and the pack rumbled over, Timmy Walford scoring his second try of the season. Kirby added an excellent conversion, striking the ball with a lazy ease.
Within five minutes, the Pirates had re-established their fourteen point lead. Once again the star man was the impressive Bodilly, dual registered with Exeter Chiefs. The winger got the ball on the left, with McLean-Dents and Kirby covering. He seemed to be boxed in but a beautifully judged grubber meant full back Tom May did not have to break stride to claim possession and dive over. May added the conversion for a 7-21 lead and the bonus try seemed to be the only remaining target. However, Richmond are a cussed, resilient side and they dug in to score a very good try, which owed a lot to patience. Harry Edwards, Chris Davies and Ross Grimstone were prominent in the build up as the Cornish line was battered till McLean-Dents found the impetus to burst the defence and get the touch down. Kirby’s successful kick provided further encouragement but two penalties by May were a setback. Kirby's points adding up to a season's tally of 100+ points for the league (picture above). A minute before half time, Pirates scrum half Alex Day was given a yellow card close to his line but Richmond could not turn territory into points.
With the Pirates a man down and Bodilly standing in at scrum half, the first seven minutes of the second half now turned the game on its head. Another long period of pressure finally resulted in a try in the corner for the ever-improving Jono Woodward. Kirby judged his tricky conversion kick beautifully. The Pirates now started to look a bit flustered under pressure and the kick off ball went straight into touch. Richmond lost possession in the following play but Man of the Match Jack Allcock turned the ball over to win a penalty and maintain impetus. From the line out, the forwards smashed their way forward and this time the scorer was hooker Grimstone, Kirby’s kick providing a 28-27 lead.
With Allcock in rampant form, Richmond had another five metre line out but this time were pinged for crossing. The Pirates exacted full punishment, helped by a clearance kick out on the full. From the line out, No 8 Tom Duncan pulled in defenders and, when the ball was moved wide, quick hands gave lock Brett Beukeboom a run in to the corner and a lead restored to 28-32. When Harry Edwards was yellow carded for a high tackle, Richmond seemed to be really up against it. But once again, the team seemed to redouble efforts, the defensive line never wavered, and they worked their way back into the opposition half. Pirates had time to clear but Allcock had other ideas, throwing himself forward to charge down the kick. The one Pirates defender was isolated and, in a flash, Davies was claiming the try under the posts.
Richmond played down the clock but, at the end, a scrum and penalty stretched nerves. Pirates tried to run the ball but a knock on summed up their frustration and it was Richmond’s day. What an advertisement for Championship rugby. It was a credit to both sides.
Mark Matzopoulos, Richmond FC First XV Coach, commented;
‘Today's game was another example of how this side does not know how to give up playing especially against a great side like Pirates. Going into half time down 27-14 the players were calm and knew they had the ability to score more points. To come away with a bonus point win is testament to the sides character and a sign of how far they have come since the start of the season. To finish 10th in the league is an amazing accomplishment and one the club should be very proud of.'
Tries: Walford, McLean-Dents, Woodward, Grimstone, Davies
Conversions: Kirby (5)
Team: R.Kirby, J.Simpson-Hefft, C.Mitchell, R.McLean-Dents(F.Gabitass), J.Woodward, R.Damant, S.Stuart, T.Walford (J.Cunnew) , R.Grimstone (R.Townsend), R.Harden (J.Tarrant), M.Corker , C.Davies, A.Peters (T.Sargeant), H.Edwards (T.Hotson), J. Allcock .