Richmond can count themselves distinctly unfortunate to emerge pointless from this game. Leading 17-16 with ten minutes to go, their defence was breached by a nasty bounce off a ricochet kick. Chasing the game thereafter, they suffered further indignity in the final minute, when an interception cost the home side even their one losing bonus point. Nevertheless it was an improved performance, especially in the second half, against good, well organised opposition. After three games, Richmond are in ninth position in the league whilst Doncaster Knights climb to fifth.
Richmond made two changes to their starting XV, Chris Davies making a welcome return to the second row and Jamie Gibbs coming in for the injured Luc Jones. On the bench Jeremy Cunnew and Jason Phipps made their seasonal debuts. Doncaster Knights included a number of summer signings, bolstering a squad who had a disappointing season last year.
On a lovely autumn day, Richmond got off to a dream start, the forwards pressing effectively after a long kick off by Rob Kirby. Under pressure, scrum half Tom James attempted a left footed clearance but it was emphatically charged down by No 8 Ed Milne, who was left with a gentle run it to touch down for the first try after less than a minute. Kirby added the conversion.
After three minutes, the first set scrum gave Richmond further heart as the pack drove the Doncaster pack off the ball to win a penalty. Kirby kicked deep and the ball was just kept in play by the Doncaster defence. Thereafter Kirby’s line kicking was notably conservative as he sought to cut out any error. It was the Knights who scored next after six minutes. Referees are now unforgiving with any hint of a high tackle and Jono Woodward was penalised near the home 10 metre line. McColl converted well.
Referee Dean Richards was constantly exasperated by delays in setting up the scrums and penalised both sides. From one of these offences, Richmond were forced back into a long period of defence but held out well. McColl missed a second penalty for another high tackle and Richmond were warned.
After twenty minutes, McColl reduced the lead further when he converted a penalty for offside. However four minutes later, Richmond got their second try. Milne won a line out ten metres out and the forwards bashed their way closer. When they were stopped, Will Warden made a crucial intervention, driving forward and swivelling to create just enough space for Ronnie McLean-Dents to power over. Kirby converted.
The lead lasted three minutes, a penalty, which looked to be for a high tackle, allowing the Knights into the 22. The forwards quickly got a drive going and hooker Ben Hunter ducked to break off and score. McColl’s conversion took the score to 14-13. Richmond’s task got harder when Woodward was yellow carded for an illegal interception. However Richmond held out to half time and had a final minute opportunity from a short-range line out.
Six minutes into the second half, McColl put his side in the lead from a penalty for not releasing at the tackle. Kirby saved a further score with a very good covering tackle on winger Curtis Wilson. Richmond now began to move the ball through the hands and looked a better side for it. The line out was still an area of frailty and more frustration followed when a straightforward penalty slid wide. However Richmond were now dominating play, the back row excellent, and Milne and centre Cameron Hudson both made powerful breaks which could have led to more. After 67 minutes, substitute Jordan Simpson-Hefft made a good straight run, from which Kirby knocked over the penalty to take his side into a one point lead.
And so to the final minutes. A Doncaster kick just over the half way line was part charged down and fell obligingly for the attack. Warden covered back desperately and was pinged for a high tackle and given a yellow card. The referee played advantage and the ball was moved wide before centre Lloyd Hayes forced his way over in the corner. From the stands at least one pass looked a long way forward but the officials were closer and the score was given, followed by an excellent McColl conversion.
Richmond fought tenaciously to steal the game at the end but scrappy line out ball forced Sam Edgerley to take extra steps and alert Doncaster scrum half James intervened to sprint away for his side’s fourth try and Richmond heartbreak.
Steve Hill, Richmond Director of Rugby, commented; ‘The players are very frustrated by the result today. They put themselves in a position to win the game and then a cruel deflection and bounce of the ball let the opposition in. I thought our scrum and defence were tremendous. We now have to eradicate the small errors that are preventing us gaining league points’
Tries: Milne, McLean-Dents
Conversion: Kirby (2)
Team: R.Kirby J.Woodward, C.Hudson , R.McLean-Dents, S.Edgerley, R.Damant,, J.Gibbs (J.Simpson-Hefft), W.Goodrick-Clarke (J.Cunnew) R.Grimstone (J.Phipps), C.Trenier (D.Spellman), W.Warden C.Davies(H.Edwards) J.Parker,, J.Liston, E.Milne.