Following a very encouraging 50-20 demolition of old rivals Blackheath, Richmond played their second friendly of the new season against hosts, the London Scottish, now a fully professional and ambitious side in the Championship. Bearing in mind the realities of playing against a side physically conditioned and trained every day for elite rugby, Richmond will take huge heart from their performance in a well contested 29-14 defeat.
The initial Richmond line up featured six players from the starting line up in the final game of last season and there were five debutants. Lock Charlie Lenygon from Taunton was the only newcomer in the forwards but the backs featured new scrum half Jamie Gibbs from Ealing, wingers Ryan Brend from Hartpury and James Butler from the Old Patesians, and centre Toby Quarendon, once a Richmond colt and more recently in the Leeds Academy.
With the tannoy urging London Scottish to ‘come on’, the Scots started with a clear intent to make physical domination count but were given a rude early shock when their English opponents took the lead after just five minutes. Fittingly, the first try of the match was scored by Richmond’s newly appointed skipper, Will Warden. Harison Edwards, the standout figure in the first half, made a good break to set up the initial impetus and the Scottish were penalised in defence for a high tackle on the lively Nick Moore. Luke Cousins kicked to touch and the forwards drove from the line out with total conviction to power over for the score. A confident looking Tom Platt added a good conversion.
With the gauntlet laid down, the Scottish drove directly at the Richmond defence, No 8 Mark Bright the most prominent of a big and powerful line up in the forwards and PJ Gidlow looking imposing in the backs. But the Richmond defence was quite outstanding, the tackling brave and whole hearted and the cover well organised and efficient. Given a very tough evening in the scrums where Mark Irish, ex Bristol, excelled, Richmond had to make the most of scraps of possession. Despite this monopoly of ball, the Scots had taken just a narrow 10-7 lead by half time, the first try by Gerrard Mullen after a well worked overlap and the second coming from Bright who forced his way over after a line out drive was initially well held.
For the second half, Richmond brought on a host of replacements and a number of the major contributors in the first half were rested. Nevertheless the Scottish continued to find it tough to break down determined defending and even enjoyed a little good fortune in their three tries scored in the second half. One was a penalty try as the scrum came under overwhelming pressure, one by Ollie Grove resulted from a high ball being dropped and knocked forward into obliging Scottish hands and the third by James Love followed some skilful play but enjoyed a favourable bounce in the process. A fourth try looked certain but a wonderful cover tackle from Butler saved the day.
Richmond had to play off very limited ball but arguably looked more threatening in attack than their professional opponents, the movement and passing looking fluent and imaginative. The one try of the second half was scored by James Falconer in the corner and followed a good build up as the Richmond forwards came back well in the last quarter. A lot of new faces enjoyed quality game time and future selection will involve a healthy number of tricky decisions.
Next Saturday, Wharfedale are the first National One visitors and Richmond should feel well prepared and considerably heartened by this resilient and spirited performance against tough Scottish opposition.
Tries: Warden, Brend
Team: T.Platt, R.Brend, N.Moore, T.Quarendon, J.Butler, L.Cousins, J.Gibbs, D.Parkinson, J.Phipps , T.Walford, W.Warden, C.Lenygon, T.George, H.Edwards, J.Thompson.
Replacements: A.Lyon, T.Cobb, T.Debuf, T.Burns, D.Abbott, G.Bansor, T.Sargeant, J.Kyle, W.Nelson, J.Falconer, J.Bird, P.C