A heart stopping match with some fantastic rugby played - Read the match report.
In front of a crowd of just under a thousand, local rivals Richmond and Ealing fought out a most thrilling and dramatic draw, which will long stay in the memory of those people fortunate enough to see it. League leaders Ealing Trailfinders were pushed all the way by a really fired up Richmond side and it was only in the last ten minutes that the visitors managed to claw their way back into the game. Richmond will rue two second half injuries which caused wholesale reorganisation and undoubtedly opened the door for the league leader’s late barnstorming recovery.
Richmond made four changes from the previous week, Harison Edwards and Simon Ackroyd coming into the back row, and Nick Moore and Luke Cousins returning in the backs.
The first twenty five minutes of the game were dominated by Richmond but Ealing absorbed everything thrown at them. It was the home forwards who generally caught the eye as they dominated, securing a lot of line out ball and using the maul to good effect. Twice Richmond set up strong line out positions but the Ealing defence was robust and conceded little. Frustratingly the first score, after twenty-six minutes, then went to an Ealing breakaway as the Trailfinders’ backs showed their class. A rare individual break in the centre was skilfully supported, Phil Chesters giving the scoring pass to Ronnie McLean-Dents. Tom Wheatcroft added a straightforward conversion.
Despite the score, the relentless Richmond pressure was now beginning to take its toll. Referee Philip Davies repeatedly penalised the visitors at the breakdown, before giving a final warning to the team. Just on the half hour, Anders Nilsson duly received a yellow card and the home pack strove to take advantage. One drive was just held up to general consternation and two minutes later, the visitors drove their opponents triumphantly off the ball. But Richmond were still not to be denied, and when prop Tim Brockett was also yellow carded, Richmond finally took full advantage to drive over the line, Edwards getting the touch down for a 5-7 scoreline.
Buoyed by the try, the home side now looked re-energised and a second try followed four minutes later. Man of the match Edwards made a typical scything break and he was well supported by the impressive Ackroyd who took the ball on to the 22. Scrum half Jamie Gibbs was well up and in turn fed Chris Davies, who charged in under the posts from fifteen metres. An excellent team try was converted by Tom Platt to give his side a 12-7 half time lead. The final action of the half saw Richmond go over the line again in the far corner but the scoring pass was forward.
Back to fifteen men in the second half, Ealing remained unable to break the stranglehold and the home side were now much more confident on the ball. After ten minutes, Richmond added their third try and it resulted from another dazzling passage of rugby. This time James Greenwood was given a yard of space to outflank the Trailfinders’ defence on the left and when he chipped ahead, he was clearly obstructed, Mr Davies signalling a penalty. However the Richmond forwards made this unnecessary, sweeping on to regain possession before setting up the backs. Greenwood was once more involved, coming in from his wing, before skipper Will Warden took the final pass to dive over by the posts, Platt extending the lead to 22-7.
Looking shell shocked, the visitors pulled back three points with a penalty. Despite the setback, momentum was still with Richmond and a fourth try soon followed, Edwards again the scorer as substitute Robbie Shaw teed up his forwards well. With the score now 27-10, Richmond looked in dominant position but injury now played a cruel part, as fly half Cousins and centre Toby Quarendon both left the field with knocks. As a result Richmond were forced into a sequence of positional changes, with lock Charlie Lenygon now the second backs substitute. Louis Grimoldby came in at fly half, Edwards moving into the centre, Davies to No 8, and Platt to the wing. Unsurprisingly Richmond now set themselves to hold on to their lead for the last quarter and Ealing at last saw an opportunity to run at a disrupted and unfamiliar defence.
Unfortunately the first Ealing comeback try, a psychologically important one, was distinctly soft as Lee Starling took a loose line out ball to canter over unchallenged. Richmond in response almost managed a fifth try to seal the match. But the visitors’ pressure was now overwhelming and home nerves were jangling. With momentum now firmly with the visitors, Owen Bruynseels scored the next try, inevitably benefitting from a trademark Ben Ward crosskick but the home defence should not have let the winger escape. With seven or eight minutes left, another beautifully weighted lobbed kick found Bruynseels again, this time in space and unopposed, and the eighth try of the game gave the visitors a bonus point and levelled the score at 27-27.
There was one final chance for Ealing to steal victory but Ward’s last minute drop goal slid well wide and both sides had to settle for a draw and three points. The two clubs will each talk of missed opportunities and unfavourable luck but a draw was probably a fair result on a day when rugby was undoubtedly the winner.
Director of Rugby Steve Hill commented; ‘Today we showed this is the league we should be in. To put the league leaders and promotion favourites under so much pressure in all areas was a real testament to all the hard work the squad has put in since July. Our control of the ball for the vast majority of the game was excellent and the ambition we demonstrated in attack was tremendous. This should serve as a really positive springboard from which to continue into the season.’
Tries: Edwards (2), Davies, Warden,
Conversions: Platt (2)
Team: T.Platt, J.Greenwood, N.Moore, T.Quarendon(L.Grimoldby), W.Browne, L.Cousins(C.Lenygon), J.Gibbs(R.Shaw), D.Parkinson(A.Lyon), J.Phipps(T.Cobb) , T.Walford, W.Warden, C.Davies, T.George, H.Edwards, S.Ackroyd.