Park hold off Richmond comeback to triumph
4:45pm Monday 29th October 2012 in Sport
Despite a stirring second half come back from 3-22 to 17-22, Richmond had to cede defeat to a strong Rosslyn Park side in front of a crowd of over 1,400.
The final margin of twenty points does not reflect the difference between the two sides but Park, who recruited ambitiously in the close season, deserved their win with a powerful all round display of quality rugby.
Richmond introduced two new players to their match day squad, Adam Gadsby from Leeds University making his debut in the centre and Oxford Blue Karl Outen at lock.
Will Nelson also started his first game, the fifth fly half of the new season, and Tom Gregory had the distinction of celebrating his 100th game for the club.
With a cold wind sweeping across the pitch towards the right hand stand corner, Richmond played the first half against the elements.
The difficulties posed by a combination of weather and aggressive Park defence soon became apparent as Richmond struggled to escape the confines of their 22, despite efficiently retaining possession.
When Richmond’s continuity was finally challenged, referee Matthew Carling penalized the home side for coming off their feet and the experienced Park fly half Ross Laidlaw kicked for the corner.
When the forwards drove for the line, Richmond did well to hold up the big lock Richard Boyle but had no answer to scrum half Matt Heeks, when he followed up to dive over, Laidlaw adding the conversion.
Richmond looked in control at the set scrum and edged the line outs all game.
But small mistakes too often cost them momentum and Park were very strong at the tackle, consistently knocking back Richmond’s big runners. After fourteen minutes, Park scored again.
Richmond managed to wheel a Park five metre scrum but winger Dominic Shabbo, standing at first receiver, nevertheless swiveled well to beat two tacklers and touch down, Laidlaw extending the score to 0-14.
The force of the wind was well demonstrated when full back Tom Platt saw the ball sail over his head when misjudging a high kick.
As a result Richmond had few kicking options and Park continued to drive them back into their 22.
Richmond’s first foray into Park’s 22 took twenty-five minutes and followed a good run by winger Will Browne.
When the visitors killed the ball in defence, Platt opened Richmond’s scoring with a penalty.
However, Park restored the lead from the next play with a Laidlaw penalty and then extended the score to 3-22 when Shabbo now turned provider, drawing in two defenders with a change of angle and finding full back Ed Lewis-Pratt on the outside for a well worked try.
Richmond’s best play of the half was showcased in the final five minutes of the half, but the neat build up could not penetrate the robust Park defence.
Facing a nineteen point deficit, Richmond needed a good start to the second half to impose themselves on the game and now to take advantage of the wind.
The urgency of their second half start soon brought reward, Park No 8 and Richmond old boy Hugo Ellis being yellow carded for some cynical defence. From the line out, Richmond drove forward effectively and Harison Edwards claimed his fifth try of the season.
With Park still reduced to fourteen men, the home side soon added a second try, the forwards driving Park comprehensively off the ball at a set scrum and earning a penalty try.
Tom Platt added two conversions and, with the score 17-22, Richmond were right back in the game and their opponents looked distinctly rattled.
Frustratingly, however, they could not make it count and, once Laidlaw extended the lead with a penalty for offside, the wind abated and Park soon looked back in command.
Two more tries decided the game, both scored by winger Nev Edwards.
The first came from the breakdown of a Richmond attack, Edwards hacking the loose ball ahead and outpacing the defence to get the touchdown from an obliging bounce of the ball.
The second followed in the dying minutes when Richmond, chasing the game, again coughed up possession with a loose pass and Park took quick advantage to create an overlap on the left.
Richmond had their moments, particularly among the forwards, well led by man of the match Will Warden, and will want to clarify with Mr Carley why two successive five metre line outs were penalized for a crossing infringement.
But on the day a more experienced Park side made fewer mistakes than their opponents and deserved a win, which keeps them challenging for top spot in the league.