Richmond 12  London Irish 50

After an impressive win against Blackheath in their first game, Richmond faced a much stronger challenge hosting Premiership side London Irish. The Irish boasted twelve internationals in their squad and ran out winners by eight tries to two. Both sides will take encouragement from this encounter, the Irish demonstrating staunch defence and admirable precision in attack whilst Richmond clung on well under relentless pressure, ceding the second half by just 12-17.

Richmond had an early chance with a five metre line out but a loose grubber kick cost them possession and they were soon back in defence. After seven minutes, the visitors opened the scoring. From a line out, the ball was moved to winger Alex Lewington and he cut in and then weaved out past several defenders to create the initial gap. The ball was quickly recycled and moved out to the wide left where, despite a big forward pass, the all action Blair Cowan scored in the corner. Tommy Bell added the conversion from the touchline, the full back outstanding with his kicking all afternoon.

Richmond looked secure in the scrums despite the presence of Irish’s new tight head prop from Saracens, Petrus Du Plessis. From the third scrum of the day Rob Kirby cleared well but the visitors returned to the attack, Lewington again the danger man down the right. When he was bundled into touch near the corner flag, a stray boot inadvertently caught Kirby in the face, ending the full back’s participation. The Exiles maintained the pressure and scored three minutes later, the pack heaving over from a line out for Du Plessis to get the try, converted by Bell.

Richmond now enjoyed a good passage of play, Harry Edwards, Will Warden and Luc Jones to the fore but their opponents’ defence offered no space and again Richmond kicked away possession. They paid a heavy price as the opposition switched straight into attack, Bell setting danger man Lewington away before the ball was quickly switched out to the left, Topsy Ojo putting Fergus Mulchrone in at the corner. Bell’s kick was narrowly wide, leaving the score at 0-19.

The following ten minutes at last featured a prolonged period of Richmond pressure. Ronnie McLean-Dents and Jono Woodward, both prominent in attack and defence, earned a penalty to set their side up five metres out. A series of line outs, scrums and penalties resulted but they could not quite turn possession into points. When the Exiles finally escaped, Jones was very unfortunate with a near perfect over the shoulder box kick bouncing inches over the corner flag.

The home line out had featured well with Alex Humfrey prominent but now the ball bobbed clear and Irish relentlessly applied pressure, Ojo next to score in the same left corner and Bell adding the conversion. With two minutes to go, the formidable Ofisa Treviranus powered through the middle, drew the last defender and sent in Brendan McKibbin for a slightly harsh 0-33 half time score.

The visitors now rang the changes, bringing on fourteen new players, six of them internationals. Richmond rotated their players more gradually, apart from a new front row (featuring new dad Joe Tarrant). Nothing much changed in the opening six minutes, the visitors back on attack and Richmond defending staunchly. The Irish showed their class as they probed away, retaining possession and searching for a gap, Isaac Curtis-Harris bursting a tackle to take the score to forty points. Under the cosh, Richmond showed that their trademark resilience has not been dimmed. Freddie Gabbitass made good use of a penalty to set up position, Max Crawford claimed the line out ball and McLean-Dents ran well to get close before the ball was lost. The Irish seemed to be clearing the danger but a good scrum gave the lively Jack Allcock the chance to charge down Bell’s clearance and Cameron Mitchell was alert enough to seize the loose ball and claim the try, well converted by Gabittass.

Confidence enhanced, Richmond claimed the next try too. From a five metre line out, the pack rumbled forward well and Allcock slipped away from the back in perfect order to claim the try. It was a pity that a rather aimless kick down the middle promptly allowed Irish space to set up an immediate counter attack, Bell passing outside to Greg Tonks before he in turn set Ben Ransom clear for the simplest of tries. Two tired teams contested the final minutes of a lung busting game, hooker Dave Porecki having the final word with a try from a five metre line out.

Richmond FC Director of Rugby, Steve Hill commented; ‘I was really pleased with the physicality and commitment the whole squad showed today. The pace of the game was a real challenge and excellent preparation for next weekend. I thought to only lose the second half 17-12 was a tremendous effort by our players and despite the end result they can take a good deal of positives from the match.’

Tries: Mitchell, Allcock  

Conversion: Gabbitass

Team: R.Kirby, J.Simpson-Hefft, C.Mitchell, R.McLean-Dents, J.Woodward, F.Gabbitass, L.Jones, W.Goodrick-Clarke, J.Phipps C.Trenier, W.Warden, A.Humfrey, AJ.Parker, J.Allcock, J.Liston H.Edwards .

Replacements: R.Grimstone, J.Cunnew, J.Tarrant, M.Crawford, J.Allcock, T.Sargeant, J.Gibbs, R.Owen, M.Freeman, B.Rath