Richmond 11 Bedford Blues 27
After an eight week break from Championship rugby, Richmond resumed league action with a home game in front of the Sky TV cameras. For fifty-five minutes, Richmond and Bedford Blues fought out a cagey, slightly nervy contest, with defences dominating and both sides locked on six points. However, once the Blues took the lead with a breakaway try, there was a significant gap in confidence and composure and the Blues showed the way with some characteristically fluent attacking rugby.
With a few inevitable injuries half way through the season and a couple of players unavailable because of weddings, Richmond gave Max Davies, Lewis Dennett and Marcus Webber their first league starts and also featured Henry Cheeseman, back on loan from the Quins. The team was led out by Jake Parker in front of a crowd of over two thousand.
Richmond enjoyed the best of the early action, generally keeping their opponents pinned back around their 22. The early collisions were not for the faint hearted and Jacob Fields knocked Ronnie McLean-Dents backwards with one big hit. However the player was not released from the tackle and Richmond had an early penalty chance. Dennett got the distance but the kick was just to the right.
However, Richmond soon returned to the attack, Webber following up well to force an error from full back Rich Lane. From the line out, the forwards made further progress, earning a penalty as the Blues killed the ball. Luc Jones tapped and ran but somehow Bedford held out on the line, referee Simon Harding signalling that the ball had been held up. After spurning two kickable penalties, Richmond finally opted to take the points and Rob Kirby opened the scoring.
The Blues levelled the scores within five minutes. Hooker Fields was always busy and he made his team’s first real break, galloping into opposition territory. When he was hauled down, a high tackle was indicated and Will Hooley kicked successfully from half way out on the right. Two further penalties followed in a bruising first half, featuring thirteen penalties. Neither side could gain any real advantage in the tight but the Blues probably had the best of the second twenty minutes, making the occasional half break as they enjoyed consistent possession from the home kicking game.
Richmond seemed to start the second half in more incisive mood, the forwards running on to the passes more effectively. Twice Will Goodrick-Clarke powered his way through the defensive line but he could not find rapid enough support. Will Warden was everywhere, always in the heart of the action. Fortunes were not helped by the departure of skipper Parker but Man of the Match Jesse Liston did all he could to lift his side.
The Blues had looked for opportunities to unleash their speedy backs but the hard working home defence had held them. However, in the 56th minute, the visitors worked a clever move down the blindside after a line out and suddenly they had a two on one in open space. Dean Adamson giving Ryan Hutler a clear run in to the corner. His side had a five point lead and the Bedford support now got louder.
Richmond had an immediate chance to respond. Bedford made a hash of the kick off and Richmond set up their line out five metres out. Max Davies and Ed Milne had been securing reliable ball but this time Mark Flanagan stole possession and immediate danger was cleared. A quick line out was then attempted but the ball was lost and Bedford hoofed the ball forward, forcing Dennett to boot the ball out in his 22. Seconds later, the home side got pinged in defence and Jarad Williams drove over from the line out. The referee checked with the TV official and, after a lengthy delay, the try was confirmed.
Richmond gave themselves a glimpse of a chance when they finally managed to get their driving maul going. The Blues were perhaps fortunate not to concede more than penalties but Richmond stuck to the task and finally Max Davies got the touch down to take the score to 11-19. His side needed the conversion but for once Kirby pushed the kick wide.
Having worked tirelessly in defence, Richmond could not find a way in the final minutes to unpick Bedford’s defence. Instead, the Blues turned the screw. First USA fly half Hooley dropped a rare goal and then in the 79th minute, they scored their third try, Ed Coulson finding open space in midfield before some lovely handling and movement finally resulted in winger Dean Adamson scoring in the corner. There was just time for the home side to mount one more attack and they put together several neat phases before another frustrating small error was followed by the referee’s final whistle.
Steve Hill, Richmond FC Director of Rugby, commented; ‘ Our players gave their all and when we got the score back to 11-19 I really thought we could get something from the match. Our defence was again tremendous and blunted one of the strongest attacks in the league for large parts of the game. Our execution in the final third improved but the calls to deny a try and penalise us five metres from the line when in possession were key moments. Bedford took their chances very well.’
Tries: M. Davies
Penalties: Kirby (2)
Team: R.Kirby (F.Gabbitass) J.Woodward, H.Cheeseman, R.McLean-Dents, M.Webber, L.Dennett , L.Jones (J.Gibbs) , W.Goodrick-Clarke (T.Walford) R.Grimstone (G.Corradi), C.Trenier (D.Spelman), W.Warden, M.Davies, (C.Lenygon), J.Parker (T.Saysell), J.Liston, E.Milne.