Richmond started life in National One with a five point victory over first time visitors Wharfedale. The Yorkshire side have now spent sixteen successive seasons in this league so were a good benchmark of the standards Richmond will need to compete at this level.A five try victory in front of a crowd of over 750 will offer plenty of encouragement though the performance was typically early season, mixing some wonderfully exciting open play with frustrating error.
The Richmond line up was a familiar one with just two newcomers making league debuts. Scrum half Jamie Gibbs, ex Ealing, was later adjudged his side’s man of the match whilst Tom Burns, ex Barking, made a hard working debut at lock.
The first ten minutes of the match were a fairly tough examination of Richmond’s defensive organisation as Wharfedale monopolised possession and recycled the ball well.
Both home wingers were unceremoniously dumped in the opening minutes as the visitors sought to impose superior physicality on the league newcomers. However Richmond weathered the storm well and, rather against the run of play, opened the scoring with a penalty from Tom Platt after good work from the backs.
Lifted by the first points, the home side then scored the first league try of the season and it was an excellent one. Harison Edwards made the initial break from the back of the scrum and Luke Cousins then threw a well judged long pass to the flying James Greenwood on the left touchline. The winger, given a yard of space, chose a perfect inside line and sheer pace took him clean through the defence from twenty-five metres to touch down under the posts. Platt added the conversion for a 10-0 lead.
The second try followed two minutes later and it was another exhilarating piece of open play. Danger man Greenwood made the key break, bursting a tackle and he passed well out of the tackle to Platt, who found Nick Moore well positioned on his inside. The centre juggled the ball for a tantalising second before securing possession and timing a lovely ball to the flying Will Browne, who rounded and outpaced the final defender for a high class try and a 15-0 lead. Platt’s conversion was charged down when the ball rolled off the tee as the full back was adjudged to have commenced his run up.
Full of confidence, Richmond now attempted to put pace on everything and ran the ball from every position. Unsurprisingly not everything worked and too much possession was turned over in the process. However Wharfedale’s challenge became harder in the second quarter when lock Alastair Allen was yellow carded for illegal use of the boot. A wonderfully judged chip from Cousins deserved to put Greenwood clear again but got an unlucky bounce. However Richmond were not to be denied and the combination of Edwards, Platt and Moore was again at the heart of the next try as the centre accelerated into space and again timed a beautiful pass outside to Greenwood for his second try.
20-0 up, the home side looked full of running and the Yorkshire side rather shell shocked, the unfortunate Lloyd Davies having a nightmare with the boot when they got penalty opportunities. However Wharfedale have plenty of Yorkshire grit and they now battled their way back into the game with two tries in the in the last minutes of the half. When Richmond were slow to support a long run from flanker Jamie Thompson, Wharfedale used the turnover ball well and the dangerous Christian Georgiou was given enough space to chip and outpace the home defence. And in the final play of the half, a slick training ground move saw winger Nick Taylor take a smart inside ball from his fly half after a set scrum and accelerate through a static defence for a good try, converted by Davies.
With the lead at half time just 20-12, the visitors resumed attack in the early second half and a nervy looking home side made too many errors. Nevertheless Wharfedale could find no way through an aggressive defence and their lack of a confident kicker reduced their options. Richmond secured their fourth try and bonus point after twelve minutes of the second half and this time the forwards took central stage as a powerful and well rehearsed drive from a line out saw Thompson get the touch down, Platt adding the conversion.
The last quarter of the game was an untidy period as the visitors suffered two injuries, involving long delays and referee Terry Hall repeatedly blew his whistle to penalise a bemused looking Richmond team. Victory and a fifth try were secured in the thirty-third minute. Gregory’s strong tackle had set up a good scrum position and a clever dummy move allowed him sufficient space to bullock over half way out on the right. Platt added the points off the posts.
Richmond will be irritated by two late Wharfedale tries, as the whistle count mounted. The first was scored by flanker James Tyson and the second (which earned a point) was a very unusual penalty try. But their gritty opponents were popular visitors and it was a day to be positive and to celebrate Richmond’s return to top level rugby together with a well earned first five points of the season. News of the Vikings’ (2nd XV) victory over Ealing and the Saxons’ (3rd XV) win over Chobham was icing on the cake.
Director of Rugby Steve Hill commented: ’The squad will be really pleased with securing a win on day one of the season and even happier with the four try bonus point. Each week will be a learning experience and today we learned that if you drop your guard even momentarily teams will punish you as Wharfedale did by securing a late bonus point. Our performance in all areas was strong but can and must improve’
Tries: Greenwood (2), Browne, Thompson, Gregory
Conversions: Platt (3)
Team: T.Platt, J.Greenwood, T,Gregory, N.Moore, W.Browne, L.Cousins(T.Quarendon), J.Gibbs(P.Nash), D.Parkinson(A.Lyon), J.Phipps(T.Cobb) , T.Walford, W.Warden, T.Burns, T.George, H.Edwards(C.Davies), J.Thompson.