London Scottish 10 Richmond 6 (Championship Cup)
The first ever Championship Cup fixture was not one that will stay long in the memory. Torrential rain and strong wind denied either side any real chance to play attractive rugby. The Scots, who lost the September league game, finished the victors but they, along with a sizeable crowd, will wonder how they escaped a final ten minute barrage of scrums and penalties under their posts. Nevertheless, they defended bravely and there are two more games to be played between these two sides before bragging rights are finally settled for the season.
The important part of the evening was the opening ceremony, during which the names of the Fallen from both clubs were individually read out. As a further tribute, each player in this match was linked to one of the pre 1914 players, who did not return from the War.
Both sides fielded strong sides, though missing four or five regulars through injury, availability or suspension. The game started with the rain now intensifying and a strong wind blowing in favour of the Scots, who dominated the early play. Two early penalties set them up five metres out but the danger was cleared, helped in part by the difficulty of throwing in straight at the exposed far corner of the ground. The first two scrums provided relief, both resulting in Richmond penalties but the kickers could gain little ground into the wind.
The trial new tackle law, in use only for this cup competition, attracted much pre match interest. In the event, the impact was low key on a night when there was no controversy and no obvious head or neck injuries. London Scottish almost found a gap in the defence after seventeen minutes but Cameron Hudson tracked back well to plug the gap. After twenty minutes, and against the run of play, Richmond took the lead. A grubber by Luc Jones was half blocked but Will Warden, outstanding again, was up quickly to harass the defence and the Scottish conceded a penalty in front, which Rob Kirby converted.
Encouraged by this score, Richmond quickly had a follow up chance after a penalty for a high tackle. However possession was lost as the side set up in the 22. Almost immediately, the Scots were awarded a penalty on their ten metre line and used the wind to gain touch inside the Richmond 22. The forwards provided the initial drive, working across field to the posts, and, when the ball was sent wide, a forward made a half incision before handing on to centre Richie Vernon who in turn got a good pass out to Craig Duncan for the try. In the atrocious conditions, it was a good score, followed by a creditable conversion by Jacob Perry.
Sam Edgerley provided a rare moment of exciting back play with an arcing run round the Scottish defence but Richmond were penalised at the scrum, which followed. Half time arrived with the score 7-3 and Richmond would have been happy enough, with the wind behind their backs in the second half.
The opening sequences of the second half rather summed up the evening. A Scottish kick was taken full in the face by Warden, who soon shrugged off the impact. The Scots overthrew the line out but scrambled it clear. And then Richmond made a mess of their line out, conceding a penalty. The Scots opted strangely for a scrum and were in turn then penalised . Error followed error.
After five minutes, Richmond cut the lead with their second penalty of the half, Kirby succeeding in horrible conditions with a kick forty metres out and in front. Too often Richmond concede a score soon afterwards and this happened again in the 49th minute. Full back Joe Luca-Smith picked up a half clearance by Jones and slipped some tackles before his pack rumbled to the posts. Richmond offended at the breakdown, suffering a double blow as Perry slotted the kick and Jesse Liston limped off.
The game continued in frustrating fashion, the conditions being the winner. Richmond celebrated debuts for Ben Cook at fly half and Marcus Webber on the wing. The scrums deteriorated, seldom looking straight, referee Alex Thomas awarding penalties both ways. Both sides struggled in the line out, Richmond having the worst of it and this denied them any continuity of possession. Until the 78th minute.
The final sequence of play seemed extraordinary. Richmond drove within a metre from the line out and Byron Hodge was yellow carded as the maul was pulled down. Richmond set up under the posts and in the next ten minutes there were around five penalties and six scrums. Phil Cringle was given a yellow card in the penultimate stages but still no penalty try ensued. The atrocious conditions provided little chance to gain advantage from extra numbers in the backs and finally in the 90th minute, a knock on ensued and the Scots had the victory.
Steve Hill, Richmond FC Director of Rugby,commented; ‘ The end of the game was very frustrating. I am not sure what more our scrum could have done to be rewarded for their dominance. That is the first time I have seen that many penalties conceded at a scrum in that position and not result in a penalty try. The awful conditions sadly dictated the type of game that had to be played. I was pleased how our players adapted to the new tackle law. We had other opportunities to score and must concentrate on improving our decision making and skill execution to ensure those chances are taken in the future’
Penalties: Kirby (2).
Team: R.Kirby S.Edgerley (M.Webber), C.Mitchell, C.Hudson, J.Simpson-Hefft, L.Dennett (B.Cook), L.Jones, J.Cunnew (W.Goodrick-Clarke), J.Phipps (R.Grimstone), D.Spelman (C.Trenier), C.Lenygon, M.Crawford, W.Warden J.Liston (A.Boyce), J.Parker.