After another pulsating finish, Richmond claimed their third drawn game in four matches, this time against old rivals Coventry at their well equipped new ground, the Butts Arena.
17-7 down at half time, Richmond scored thirteen points in the last quarter to claim two very creditable away points. Richmond made four changes for this tough fixture, Tom Platt and James Greenwood returning in the backs and Charlie Lenygon and Doug Abbott in the forwards.
The visitors got off to an excellent start, securing initial possession and doing all the attacking in the first ten minutes. A tricky penalty out wide was scuffed and then a seemingly certain try was called back for a forward pass. A minute later, a great turnover from Lenygon provided another opportunity but the curse of the forward pass struck again as Richmond tried to get their passes away out of the tackle. However Coventry weathered the storm well and a long kick finally saw them established in the Richmond 22 for the first time. Once set up in a good attacking possession, Coventry looked a good side as they moved the ball at pace, probing both flanks in quick sequence. Fly half Cliffie Hodgson orchestrated his line well and, after sixteen minutes, the visitors’ wide defence finally ran out of numbers, Heath Stevens touching down on the left and Hodgson converting well.
7-0 down against the run of play, Richmond were soon back on the attack but the Coventry defence allowed no space and the rolling maul was the likeliest attacking weapon. It was therefore no surprise when the visitors’ first try came from a line out. A James Greenwood run down the left wing set up the territory and, when Coventry conceded a penalty, Richmond kicked for touch. With the forwards dominant at the line out, the visitors claimed possession and drove for the line, the lively Jason Phipps breaking off to power over. Grimoldby added the conversion to equalise the score.
For the next fifteen minutes, Richmond huffed and puffed to good effect but final passes let them down, Phipps bursting through well on one occasion and the forwards looking dangerous from a line out till the referee adjudged the movement ‘truck and trailer’. Five minutes before half time, Coventry showed how to take their chances, the excellent Hodgson stepping back to steady himself for his fourth drop goal of the season. Five minutes later, Coventry scored again, right on the brink of half time. A neat grubber down the right evaded Richmond covering hands and Tom Harris was first to the squirming ball. The half time score of 17-7 suddenly looked ominous.
But Richmond were certainly not cowed and an early barnstorming run from Will Browne, Richmond’s best back, offered encouragement. Small errors continued to dog their best moves and the Coventry defence looked confident whilst the home backs looked dangerous on the break. After twelve minutes, Richmond were offered extra encouragement when a bout of handbags resulted in the Coventry skipper Scott Morgan receiving a yellow card. However Richmond could take no advantage from the extra man, running the ball from a five metre scrum only to lose possession. When Morgan returned to the fray, the game looked decided but a resolute Richmond side redoubled efforts and again demonstrated the spirit and determination which runs through the team.
Just before the half hour, Coventry conceded a straightforward penalty and Louis Grimoldby reduced the lead to 17-10. Throwing caution to the wind, the visitors now pressed for a second try to equalise the score and the game was end to end. Richmond had to defend well to hold out a sequence of Coventry attacks. With two minutes left of normal time, it looked as if Richmond would have to settle for one point, but a Coventry clearance missed touch and was well taken by full back Tom Platt. Cutting inside, Platt made good ground and created the space to set Browne haring for the corner. The winger was just caught but when the ball was recycled, Phipps was on hand to dive over for his second try of the game. Once again, Platt demonstrated nerves of steel to nail a difficult conversion to equalise the score.
If Richmond were saying to themselves not to give away a penalty in the last minutes, it fell on deaf ears as referee Shane Lewis correctly pinged Richmond in front of the posts. Hodgson made no mistake and the game looked over. But, once again, Richmond simply would not give up and, with everyone checking their watch, Coventry now in turn offended in front of their posts and Platt made no mistake to bring his side level. The final whistle brought relief to jangling nerves, the common view being that neither side deserved to lose a rousing game.
Director of Rugby Steve Hill commented; ‘To gain two points away at Coventry is a laudable achievement especially how we had to come back so late in the game. Our positive attitude and team togetherness ensured we never gave up. Next week’s home game versus Rosslyn Park is a huge game and we will need to improve our precision and decision making if we are to secure the desired outcome’
Tries: Phipps (2)
Conversions: Grimoldby, Platt
Penalties: Grimoldby, Platt
Team: T.Platt, J.Greenwood, N.Moore, T.Gregory, W.Browne, L.Grimoldby(W.Nelson), J.Gibbs(R.Shaw), D.Parkinson(A.Lyon), J.Phipps , T.Walford, W.Warden, C.Lenygon, D.Abbott, H.Edwards, D.O’Brien.