After the most stomach churning, nail biting game against a very brave Caldy side, Richmond finally secured victory to earn promotion to National One. Next season Richmond will return to fixtures with traditional rivals like Blackheath, Rosslyn Park and Coventry. On a wonderful landmark day in the club’s history, Richmond had to dig deep and demonstrate huge resolve to vanquish their Northern opponents, who played much of the match with fourteen men.
Fielding a side unchanged from the Lydney match two weeks earlier, Richmond started as clear favourites against opponents who travelled down from the Wirral on the morning of the game. Unsurprisingly the home side were quicker into their stride and after good work from the forwards, claimed the first score when Tom Platt, passed fit during the warm up, stroked a penalty, given for not rolling away. Keen to play the opening exchanges at pace, Richmond then opened up from their own 22, two minutes later, and were penalised under their posts. Caldy failed to convert this chance but made amends three minutes later. Opting to run back a mishit line kick, the home backs put their side under pressure with a misjudged pass into vacant space. Scrambling back, the defence then came offside and this time Gavin Roberts made no mistake.
With referee Terry Hall giving out countless penalties, the game remained frustratingly stop start and both sides struggled for continuity of possession. With twenty minutes gone, Will Browne took a characteristic charge at the Caldy defence only to find himself upended and brought to ground with a thump. The officials immediately conferred and elected to red card Caldy lock Jack Collister for a spear tackle. The law is clear and designed in the interests of player safety but it was a severe punishment. The tackle was exuberant and not malicious, and there is a strong argument that intent should be a major consideration in determining the colour of the card. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the decision, Caldy appeared inspired by misfortune and Richmond increasingly overawed by the weight of expectation.
After twenty-four minutes, Caldy deservedly took the lead, Richmond being adjudged offside, with the penalty count now in double figures. The game remained scrappy and badly needed a try and it finally came in the last minutes of the half. Tom Gregory instigated a Richmond counter attack, supported by George Merrick, James Greenwood and Barney Pascall. When the move was finally held, the forwards set up the platform to give Gregory space to step inside his man and find the industrious Will Warden on the charge to drive over under the posts. Platt’s conversion gave his side a 10-6 lead.
When the second half started, Richmond clearly intensified their efforts and, despite mistakes, soon forced yet another penalty, this time converted by Platt to extend the lead to 13-6. With the seven man pack under increasing pressure, Caldy now lost two scrums in a row against the head as Richmond turned the screw. Another Platt penalty dropped just short but momentum was maintained close to the line as two more scrums collapsed with the home forwards in full control. When the scrum folded a third time, Mr Hall elected not to award the penalty try but to yellow card the replacement Caldy prop, Rob Doolan. Some indecision followed as it was established that Caldy had no more front row replacements before uncontested scrums ensued, to the visitors’ unintended relief.
Freed of scrummaging duties, the Wirral side now had their best spell of the match as they dominated possession and repeatedly turned over Richmond ball. Numbers were evened up when Richmond’s Kyle Sinckler was yellow carded, presumably for a high tackle. Soon afterwards, in the twenty-first minute, Caldy got reward for their gutsy efforts when a delightful move from another uncontested scrum saw the outstanding full back Andrew Soutar take an inside ball and slip through the home defence to score under the posts, Roberts’ conversion equalising the scores.
Nerves were now really jangling and both sides had ambitious penalty attempts in the final minutes of normal time. Substitute Harison Edwards was prominent and had to cover well at the corner to avert another score. Finally extra time of ten minutes each way was declared. If Caldy had had the better second half, Richmond dominated the extra time period, as referee Mr Hall finally let the game flow without interruption. The home forwards were now at their best and a front row charge was just held up on the line in the last action of the first ten minutes.
With the large crowd redoubling efforts to rouse their teams, Richmond now drew upon final resources of energy to claim the crucial score. From a line out, possession was retained through several phases. When the storming Sinckler made a characteristic break, the Caldy defence was finally breached and Will Warden was again the hero, and deservedly so, as he used his power and strength to force his way over for his second try. Platt, Richmond’s Man of the Match, converted and Richmond had a long final five minutes of the season to hold on. There was no way back for Caldy.
And so the season ended with Richmond’s high ambitions fully realised and a memorable season of immense hard work deservedly rewarded. But spare a thought for a heroic Caldy side, who contested all the way against the odds and ran Richmond agonisingly close.
Director of Rugby Steve Hill commented:' The squad and the whole club are over the moon with the result and the promotion. Caldy showed tremendous spirit throughout the match and had opportunities to win the match. We continued to show tremendous ambition and belief going into the last 10 minutes when we knew we had to score. Keeping the ball in play eventually allowed Will Warden to secure the winning try. We stayed true to our attacking principles and were rewarded in the end. It was not a game for the faint hearted!'
Tries: Warden (2)
Conversions: Platt (2)
Penalties: Platt (2)
Team: T.Platt, W.Browne, T.Gregory, B.Pascall, J.Greenwood (T.Chesters), L.Cousins, P.Nash (T.Drewe), K.Sinckler, J.Phipps , T.Walford, W.Warden, G.Merrick (H.Edwards), T.George, C.Davies, D.Abbott.
Subs not used: J.McCormick-Houston, A.Lyon.