Richmond dealt losing hand at Park
Updated 9:50am Monday 16th September 2013 in Richmond
Despite two yellow cards and an early injury, Richmond pushed ambitious neighbours, Rosslyn Park, all the way and were unlucky to finish the game with no bonus points.
The fixture list has provided the toughest of starts to the season with games against two top five clubs from last year but Richmond have competed well in both matches.
Richmond showed two changes from the previous week, Tom Platt replacing the injured Rob Kirby and Harison Edwards returning to a reorganised back row and Tom George dropping to the bench.
A strong Park side featured a number of players recruited from Ealing and London Scottish and were captained by Richmond old boy Hugo Ellis.
Richmond dominated territorially in the first ten minutes but found themselves 6-0 down in an error strewn start.
The visitors had the best of the early scrums, winning a free kick at the first and then subsequently taking the ball against the head. But they could do little with the possession and conceded the first penalty when players failed to retreat behind the kicker.
The second penalty from fly half Sam Katz followed Park’s first serious attack, winger Dave Vincent looking full of running and Rob Alexander doing well in defence to prevent a big overlap.
The day got distinctly worse for Richmond and the unfortunate Matt Keville when the centre was stretchered off with a nasty looking ankle injury to be replaced by Martin Freeman.
With both sides making handling mistakes, opportunities opened up and Park took full advantage in the eighteenth minute, counter attacking from a dropped Richmond crash ball.
Katz accelerated into space and when stopped by full back Platt, the ball was recycled well and Henry Staff was able to evade an overstretched defence.
When Katz added the conversion, Richmond were 13-0 down and facing a heavy defeat.
To their huge credit, Richmond now redoubled efforts and fought their way back into the game.
Freeman made the first inroads, staying on his feet well as he battered his way forward and this created space for Tom Platt out wide on the left wing.
There was still a lot to do but the full back and the supporting Simon Ackroyd combined beautifully to create a good try, converted by Louis Grimoldby.
Both second rows were yellow carded for some mild fisticuffs just before the half hour, but Richmond continued to press and Grimoldby added a penalty when Park went offside and then failed to retreat ten metres.
With the momentum now being edged by the visitors, the last thing Richmond needed was to lose skipper Will Warden, but he was yellow carded for a contentious high tackle and his side found themselves defending their line with thirteen men.
Park organised themselves carefully and used their big men to drive at the depleted defence but the visitors held out attack after attack and Park could find no way over the line.
The defence was magnificent and took Richmond to half time in good spirits, just 13-10 down.
Richmond’s first second half task was to hold out Park till Warden returned and this they did.
But after ten minutes of the second half Park extended their lead when they finally converted one of several penalty opportunities as Richmond went off their feet in defence.
The Park pack were now edging the scrums and Richmond spent too long playing the game in their own half.
A break by Nick Moore and Freeman promised for a minute but another knock on restored the Park pressure.
Unable to establish attacking position, Richmond hesitated when they won ball on the half way and Park had full opportunity to counter on the break.
Livewire Vincent again played a key role, drawing in defenders before Jordan Burns, on loan from Harlequins, accelerated away up the touchline for a decisive score.
Once again, Richmond dug deep and battled back. Park conceded a penalty at the scrum and after a long Grimoldby line kick, the forwards at last found themselves deep in the opposition 22.
They made no mistake, Edwards taking the line out ball in training ground mode. The pack drove forward at pace and Chris Davies got the touchdown to take the score to 21-15.
With play breaking up in the last ten minutes, both sides had chances, Will Browne looking very sharp and very nearly scoring before a tap tackle by Park full back Pete Hodgkinson just overbalanced him in front of the posts.
And it was the home full back who set up the decisive final score, working with his ex Ealing colleague Sam Shires to find space with some beautifully balanced running which set up Vincent for a deserved try and a final scoreline of 26-15.