Richmond 24 Ealing Trailfinders 22

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Against all the odds, a battling and defiant Richmond side toppled high fliers Ealing to claim a magnificent victory and four invaluable league points. Playing with the strong wind in the first half, Richmond built up a 17-5 half time lead. But when Trailfinders scored twice in three minutes to get the lead back, the game looked over. However Richmond simply refused to accept defeat and Henry Cheeseman claimed the decisive try with just six minutes left. It was Richmond’s best result yet in the Championship and keeps them one point ahead of Hartpury, who narrowly beat Nottingham on Friday.

The potency of the wind was demonstrated from the kick off when the ball dropped into open space, giving Richmond an early attacking opportunity. Ealing cleared this danger but, a minute later, conceded a penalty for holding on. Lewis Dennett tried a kick from his own half and got the distance, but not quite the direction. After five minutes, Richmond got a good shove at the first scrum and were awarded yet another scrum penalty, this time rather closer and converted by Rob Kirby.

Ealing’s first venture into the home 22 was cut short by a crooked line out throw, mostly the result of the gusting wind on the exposed side of the ground. From the scrum Dennett booted the ball upfield and the ball was dropped by the Trailfinders’ winger.  With the scrum providing a solid platform, Richmond built the pressure steadily, going through a number of phases without making a decisive breakthrough. However, remaining patient, they retained the ball well and Kirby made two good forays, fortified by support from the belligerent Will Goodrick-Clarke. The forwards gathered and battered the line, phase by phase, till finally Goodrick-Clarke broke a try line tackle to get the touchdown. Kirby converted.

It took Trailfinders just three minutes to find a response. A Richmond clearance kick was charged down and Luc Jones had to make a hurried clearance out of his 22. From the line out, the elusive Will Harries ran a smart angle to break the defensive line. Richmond scrambled back but at the expense of a yellow card for Jones. From the line out, the Ealing pack got a steady drive moving forward and hooker Matt Cornish got the touchdown.

Soon afterwards, Will Warden departed the game with a knock and was replaced by Max Crawford, who played a vital role in the line outs.

Harries had several chances on the right wing but Cheeseman covered well and snuffed out the danger. Richmond were excellent in defence and their robust tackling was forcing Ealing into regular uncharacteristic errors. The home back row of Jesse Liston, Jake Parker and Toby Saysell were at the heart of much of Richmond’s best play and earned the next penalty with a turnover. The longish kick just drifted wide.

Chris Davies made one good line break but could not find Liston, who was in support. Crawford claimed a vital Ealing throw when they looked poised for another line out drive. Richmond needed another score to give themselves a chance in the second half and they got one in the 38th minute. Ealing had the ball on their ten metre line and were building an attack when Cameron Mitchell neatly intercepted and was quickly five metres clear. The centre was pursued all the way but got the touchdown and Kirby added the conversion.

Richmond had an excellent opportunity to increase the lead in the opening minutes of the second half. After the Ealing scrum half’s kick was charged down, Richmond again built momentum with great patience. Given a scrum under the posts, the forwards got the initial shove but were then penalised by referee Simon Harding. Ealing exacted full punishment as they promptly worked their way downfield before David Johnston floated a long ball out to Kieran Murphy on the wing and he touched down in the corner. The pass looked some way forward but the officials decided otherwise.

Just one score behind, Ealing looked much more confident. After 56 minutes, the big No 8 Rayn Smid got hold of a loose ball and set off for the line forty metres distant. Five metres out Mitchell caught him with a brave attempt to knock the ball out of his grasp but he had enough power to slide over. Peter Lydon brought the scores level with his conversion. Richmond’s task immediately got worse. They did well to get the first touch to the kick off ball, tapping it back. Unfortunately Alun Walker was the recipient and he switched the ball on to Andrew Durutalo who copied Smid’s route to the line.

An Ealing supporter commented ‘Richmond haven’t given up’ and they certainly hadn’t. The tackling remained ferocious and both Goodrick-.Clarke and Davies had to hobble off. Richmond also looked dangerous on the break and Cheeseman was the man to get them within distance with a thirty metre gallup up the touchline after Andrew Boyce charged down a kick. Again Richmond were admirably patient, going through the phases and probing the defence. Finally, at the second scrum five, Jones fed Cheeseman and the big winger crashed his way over, Kirby converting.

Ealing tried everything in the final minutes to regain their lead and got perilously close. However Richmond turned over possession at the end and, with huge delight, Jones was able to boot the ball into touch and the celebrations began. Fly half Dennett was a deserved Man of the Match.

Steve Hill, Richmond FC Director of Rugby, commented; ‘I am so pleased for this tremendous group of players. They showed huge passion for each other and the jersey this afternoon. They put their bodies on the line for the whole eighty minutes and were exhausted but elated in the dressing room afterwards. They never stopped believing in each other and that shone through this afternoon’

Tries: Goodrick-Clarke, Mitchell, Cheeseman

Conversions: Kirby (3).          Penalties: Kirby

Team: R.Kirby, J.Woodward, C.Mitchell, O.Evans (B.Cook), H.Cheeseman, L.Dennett , L.Jones, W.Goodrick-Clarke (J.Cunnew), R.Grimstone, C.Trenier , W.Warden (M.Crawford), C.Davies (A.Boyce), J.Liston, T.Saysell, J.Parker.