Richmond 26   Doncaster Knights 22   

Richmond achieved surely their best Championship result yet with a gripping, edge of the seat victory over a strong Doncaster Knights side. Having lost 16-57 and 34-3 in last year’s fixtures between the clubs, this was a huge turnaround for the home side, who have now won four of their last five league games. The Knights scored four good tries and fully deserved their two league points but Richmond merited the win because they took their chances, forced the opposition into errors and again demonstrated the value of their remarkable teamwork.

Richmond had two late changes, Martin Freeman replacing Jono Woodward and Max Crawford coming in on the bench for Alex Humfrey. The Knights have had plenty of injury problems this season but included fit again Charlie Foley and Lloyd Hayes in the backs and the returning Tongan international Jack Ram in the forwards.

In front of a crowd of over 1,000, Richmond kicked off and gained early confidence with a first minute penalty from Rob Kirby. The visitors had an early chance to equalise from a scrum penalty but the kick was wide. Both sides opted to throw the ball around but Richmond looked most dangerous with their forward drives. The first try came after seventeen minutes and, ironically, followed a period of strong Doncaster pressure created by two successive penalties. Somehow Richmond held out at the corner and Cameron Mitchell led a break out.  When the centre kicked deep into space, Foley conceded a line out out thirty metres out. The throw was taken quickly and, when Freddie Gabbitass passed wide, Mitchell again ran well and timed his pass to Freeman beautifully. The winger still had a lot to do but showed both pace and power to score one of his best club tries. For the third game in a row, Kirby’s kicking was faultless and he added the conversion for a 10-0 lead. Four minutes later, Jack Allcock, in very lively form, combined with Jeremy Cunnew to win another penalty and Kirby added three more points.

Doncaster had plenty of support and now showed their class with the next two scores.  Once again, Richmond were pinged at the scrum, referee Dean Richards finding fault throughout the game. From the line out, the pack drove forward and veteran Colin Quigley claimed the score from the second surge. Three minutes later, full back Charlie Foley made a searing midfield break through the defensive line and a straightforward pass to the supporting Tyson Lewis gave the winger a simple run in. However, crucially, both conversions slipped wide and Richmond extended their lead in the last five minutes of the half. A lovely high kick off was dropped by the visitors, setting Richmond up to win a penalty in front of the posts. And, three minutes later, Kirby added his fourth penalty after Ross Grimstone claimed an overthrown line out ball.

Doncaster started the second half strongly and, despite an important tackle by Ronnie McLean-Dents on Lewis, built the momentum to drive over from another well-organised line out set up. This time, Aaron Carpenter got the touch down. Five minutes later, an increasingly confident Doncaster scored their fourth try to take the lead. Once again a scrum penalty provided the initial opportunity but it was the strong running of centre Lloyd Hayes, which pierced the home defence. Substitute Tom James, only on the field a minute or two beforehand, took the ball on but still looked likely to be caught. However he showed electric pace to run a wide angle to the line. When Simon Humberstone added his first successful kick, it looked ominous but, bit by bit, Richmond fought back and now really imposed themselves on the game.

With Man of the Match Luc Jones prompting and varying his game with great intelligence, the forwards took increasing control and the whole side tackled their hearts out to contain any Doncaster counter attack. One brilliant cover tackle from Jordan Simpson-Hefft prevented what seemed a certain try from Andy Bulumakau.  Substitutes Will Goodrick-Clarke and Toby Saysell added new impetus in attack and Jason Phipps’ accurate throwing steadied the line out. In the 70th minute, Richmond battered the Knights’ line for a prolonged period, Chris Davies and Will Warden always to the fore. But when a five metre scrum was penalised, the Knights, who had defended bravely, looked likely to escape. However the home team had other ideas and when Rob Kirby kicked a penalty back into the 22, the forwards, showing the value of their fitness work, gathered again for another mighty onslaught. Jones set up Davies to get agonisingly close but the ball was retained and pressure maintained. Finally Goodrick-Clarke found the line, Mr Richards awarded the score and Kirby added the conversion. Two minutes left, could Richmond hold out?  The answer was yes but it needed strong nerves and some bloody-minded determination as Doncaster tried everything to break the grip.

Steve Hill, Richmond Director of Rugby, commented; ’What an amazing game and night! We knew Doncaster would be a huge test and so they were. Our ability to believe in each other, stay in the game and then bring pressure to bear in the final quarter was magnificent. The physicality of our defence and our patience in the final third were much improved from our last performance and in Rob Kirby we have a first class points machine. The atmosphere in the stands at the end of the game, in the players changing room post match and then in the clubhouse with all our supporters was sensational. Money can buy many things-but it can’t but that.’

Tries: Freeman, Goodrick-Clarke
Conversions: Kirby (2)
Penalties: Kirby (4)
Team: R.Kirby, J.Simpson-Hefft, C.Mitchell, R.McLean-Dents, M.Freeman (R.Adamson), F.Gabbitass (J.Swan), L.Jones J.Cunnew(W.Goodrick-Clarke)  R.Grimstone (J.Phipps), C.Trenier (J.Tarrant), W.Warden C.Davies, J.Liston (T.Saysell), T.Allcock J.Parker.