Ealing Trailfinders 36 Richmond 32
Ealing Trailfinders, perhaps temporarily, moved to the top of the Championship table with a five point win over Richmond. However the visitors pushed them desperately close to recover from a 21-0 deficit to claim two losing points and, with a bit of luck, it could have been more. Richmond supporters will be immensely proud of their team, who displayed huge heart and character to battle their way back into a game, which looked dead and buried after twenty minutes.
Richmond started the game with two changes to their starting line up, Ross Grimstone and Ed Milne having taken knocks and been replaced by Jason Phipps and Myles Scott. Remarkably eight of Richmond’s 22 had played over 100 games for the club. By contrast, Trailfinders have recruited another formidable squad of established professionals and gave a first start to Argentina international Segundo Tuculet at full back.
With a strong wind blowing behind Richmond and across the pitch towards the stand, Ealing kicked off short, setting up the first scrum. Richmond have worked hard on their scrummaging and they again dominated today. Rob Kirby had a very ambitious, early shot at goal but the kick was just wide. It wasn’t long before Trailfinders countered. Richmond were perhaps unfortunate to be pinged at a turnover, with an Ealing body seeming to block release of the ball. However they took their chance clinically, ex Newcastle Falcon Craig Willis kicking to the corner and Gloucester old boy Tom Denton claiming the line out before his pack drove decisively over. Willis added the conversion and with Jesse Liston coming off with a knock, Richmond already had an uphill challenge.
With the wind limiting kicking options, both sides opted to run the ball and Guy Armitage was almost away from a neat back of the hand pass. Kirby gave the ball a good thump from the 22 and was distinctly unlucky when the ball spurred on past the defence to go dead. With the scrum set back on the 22, scrum half Ryan Foley slipped another inside pass to James Cordy-Redden for the winger to claim the second try, routinely converted.
After twenty minutes, Ealing scored again, Jordy Reid initially worked into space before Willis’ clever stabbed grubber allowed the alert Seb Stegmann to touch down just ahead of a trio of defenders. Willis again added the conversion and the lead was 21-0.
Five tries were to follow by half time. Jono Woodward broke down the right wing, lock Scott rescued loose ball and finally Rory Damant found Kirby on the touchline for a good opening try. Near the half hour, Richmond cut the lead to seven points when Luc Jones tapped a penalty and the forwards backed up, Will Goodrick-Clarke getting the touchdown for the front row. However Ealing still had plenty of attacking options. After Alun Walker got a trademark try from a training ground driving maul, Tuculet showed delightful skill, having slipped, to regain balance, step a defender and flip a scoring pass to Stegmann. Importantly, there was just time for a third Richmond try, Jordan Simpson-Hefft going over in the corner following more good work by the pack, directed by scrum half Jones.
The opening ten minutes of the second half were closely contested, Richmond’s determination evidenced by thunderous tackles from Woodward and Will Warden. However it was Ealing who got the next score, a penalty allowing the pack to set up five metres out. With Goodrick-Clarke in the sin bin, Richmond held the drive but Willis scored a fine individual try, breaking back against the traffic to score near the posts for a 38-19 lead. And then back came Richmond.
The last half hour undoubtedly belonged to the visitors. With Chris Davies, Jake Parker and Andrew Boyce always to the fore supporting the front five, Ealing were now conceding penalties under pressure and, after Jones tapped and ran, Timmy Walford scored the bonus point try. One league point was not enough and Richmond redoubled efforts, the scrum now looking all powerful.
Harry Edwards added some mazy running and Ronnie McLean-Dents was as direct as ever. With six minutes to go, lock Denton was yellow carded and Richmond seized the opportunity to drive over from the line out. The touchline conversion was inches the wrong side of the post. However Ealing could not escape from their half and Richmond resumed the attack. With two minutes left, they opted to kick for the corner rather than try a difficult shot at goal. Ealing held out this attack but they were almost immediately back under pressure. With the final whistle due, Richmond held concentration wonderfully and worked their way steadily forward through phase after phase. Finally, under the posts, referee Tom Wigglesworth extended his arm and Kirby chipped the penalty for a defiant second point.
Steve Hill, Richmond Director of Rugby, commented; ‘We should be pleased with two bonus points away at Ealing but we are not. The first half was our poorest defensive display of the season. All credit however to our attack and to the whole squad for staying in the fight and eventually scoring five tries. We comprehensively won the second half and I thought looked far stronger at the end of the match than the hosts. We will need to be a lot better in the first twenty minutes next week at home to Nottingham.’
Tries: Kirby, Goodrick-Clarke, Simpson-Hefft, Walford, Davies
Conversion: Kirby (2)
Team: R.Kirby J.Woodward, C.Mitchell , R.McLean-Dents, J.Simpson-Hefft, R.Damant (L.Dennett), L.Jones (S.Edgerley), W.Goodrick-Clarke (T.Walford), J.Phipps( R.Freestone)), C.Trenier (D.Parkinson), W.Warden, M.Scott(H.Edwards) J.Parker , J.Liston (A.Boyce), C.Davies .