Richmond 26   Ealing Trailfinders 33

Maul1100Chris Davis 191 Caps - Awsome!

Richmond picked up their first league point of the season against high flying Ealing and, in an excellent display, had their opponents hanging on for the last quarter of the game. The one point lifts Richmond to eleventh in the table, one ahead of Rotherham Titans.

Richmond made a number of changes to their starting team, retaining the bulk of the players who played the second half against Bedford Blues. Rob Kirby returned from injury and Chris Davies moved from No 8 to second row. The lock was playing his 191st game, breaking the club appearance record of modern years. Ronnie McLean-Dents was playing his 50th first team game.

The home side enjoyed the best of the early play, driving effectively from the line out and winning a penalty as Ealing collapsed the maul. Having got themselves within thirty metres of the line, Richmond opened up in attack, Jesse Liston making good yards and, importantly, the excellent McLean-Dents mopping up loose ball. Under pressure, the visitors conceded a penalty under the posts and Kirby made no mistake.

With an ambitiously recruited line up, Ealing looked threatening with ball in hand, countering at speed. Richmond seized a loose ball to stop one attack but came offside in the process and Peter Lydon, ex London Scottish, levelled the scores after nine minutes. Two minutes later, Richmond reclaimed the lead after a high tackle from the visitors. The kick was 45 metres out but Kirby made no mistake.

Richmond only conceded four penalties in the first half but, when they did, fly half Aaron Penberthy exacted full punishment with his formidable left footed touch finding. One such penalty took his side within ten metres and the Ealing pack worked a smart blindside move, Will Davies stealing over as Richmond awaited the drive. Lydon added a first class conversion.

Three minutes later, the Trailfinders added a second try. From a scrum on half way, Piers O’Conor, on loan from Wasps, made a half break and managed to get his pass away. The outstanding American Eagle flanker, Andrew Durutalo carried on the move in bruising fashion, taking the tackle to send winger James Cordy-Redden sprinting in to the corner.

With the deficit now 6-15, Richmond picked up the pace, a smart grubber from Kirby establishing a line out five metres out. Ealing cleared the immediate danger. But Jake Parker claimed the line out ball and McLean-Dents and Will Warden were inevitably to the fore as Richmond battered their way back to earn another penalty, converted by Kirby.

Richmond’s self belief was visibly increasing and prop Jeremy Cunnew led the next attack, thumping his way into the 22. Richmond retained the impetus and, when another maul was collapsed, Luc Jones tapped and ran. The forward kept commendably patient as they picked and drove in support. Finally the ball was moved out left, quick hands allowing Mitchell to send Jordan Simpson-Hefft into the corner for a very good try. Kirby, on another day of faultless kicking, added the conversion and Richmond led 16-15 at half time.

Thunder rumbled inside and outside the Ealing dressing room and the visitors came out with renewed intent. Their breakthrough followed in the eighth minute. Richmond were pressed into lengthy defence, a penalty allowing the visitors to set up five metres out. The tackling was bruising but finally scrum half Grayson Hart found a small gap and powered through. Richmond’s task then got harder as Jono Woodward was carded, a little over eager following the kick off.

Ealing were now chasing their bonus point and, one man down, Richmond held out well till the 58th minute. An offside penalty cost them dear and, from the five metre line out, the ball was moved inside for the powerful Durutalo to smash his way over, Lydon adding the conversion.  Back to fifteen men, Richmond now quickly cut the lead. From another rock solid scrum (tight head Craig Trenier being the deserved Man of the Match), Jones went on a sniping diagonal run to the corner, an illegal tackle knocking the ball out of his hands. Referee Fergus Kirby immediately moved to the posts and awarded a penalty try, which now comes with automatic conversion points. Hart was given a yellow card.

Lydon soon reopened his side’s lead to seven with another penalty but, with Chris Davies stealing opposition line out ball at will and the visitors repeatedly kicking out on the full, the momentum was definitely with Richmond. Harison Edwards entered the fray at No 8 and soon made a characteristic burst from a line out. Seemingly in at the corner, only a wonderful tackle by that man Durutalo saved his side. When Lydon added his third penalty for a disputed scrum offence in the 79th minute, Richmond appeared doomed to end with nothing. However the team don’t know how to give up and when a penalty was awarded around 45 minutes out, ice man Kirby was never going to miss.

Steve Hill, Richmond FC Director of Rugby, commented; ‘This was a huge improvement from last week. The physicality, intensity and discipline were all raised. Rob Kirby’s kicking was excellent. What impressed me most was the way this Richmond team, with no full-time players, had a very expensive, full time, professional squad hanging on for dear life at the end of eighty minutes. ‘

Tries: Simpson-Hefft, Penalty try  
Conversion: Kirby
Penalties: Kirby (4)
Team: R.Kirby, J.Woodward, C.Mitchell, R.McLean-Dents, J.Simpson-Hefft,(B.Rath)  F.Gabbitass, L.Jones (J.Gibbs), J.Cunnew(W.Goodrick-Clarke), J.Phipps (R.Grimstone) C.Trenier, W.Warden, C.Davies, J.Liston (H.Edwards, A.Humfrey), J.Allcock, J.Parker.