Richmond make crucial step with Worthing win

First published in Sport

League leaders Richmond overcame third placed Worthing to claim four invaluable league points, but only after another full blooded, intense and gripping match which thoroughly absorbed a crowd of just under a thousand.

The result opens up a gap of twelve points between first and third teams but there are still plenty of twists and turns to come, with five league games left.

Richmond made two changes in their starting line up from the previous week, the injured James Brooks and Danny Parkinson being replaced by the experienced Luke Cousins and Ali Lyon.

On a lovely Spring afternoon, Cousins kicked off and Worthing fielded the ball on their 22.

Moving the ball across the post for a left footed clearance kick, the visitors dallied too long on the ball and Tom Gregory comprehensively charged down the kick to claim the obliging ball and score the first try within the first minute of the game.

Stung into action, Worthing responded with a long period of attacking pressure and Richmond had to work very hard to hold them out.

Worthing’s Robert Smith made an early break before Cousins hauled him down and Will Browne dealt firmly with Alex Nielsen, scorer of twenty-two league tries this season.

Every time that Richmond escaped the boundary of their 22, they appeared to concede a penalty or free kick under the eagle eye of referee David Proctor and Worthing dominated territory and possession for the first half hour.

Uncharacteristically, Worthing’s kicker Matt McLean could not convert the two penalties within range so it was the 27th minute before the visitors finally opened their scoring.

When Mr Proctor found fault with Richmond at the scrum, Worthing opted for a line kick to take them deep into the home 22.

From the line out Worthing rumbled forward and, for the only time in the match, Richmond could not reorganise quickly enough to prevent Sam Hewick getting the touch down, to level the score at 5-5.

Just two minutes later, Richmond countered with their second try, which was probably the crucial action of the day.

From a scrum just outside their 22, Worthing knocked on and the referee signalled advantage.

Glancing up, fly half Cousins spotted a gap out wide and cross kicked to the vacant left wing where Barney Pascall raced forward to seize the inch perfect kick and dive over in the corner.

Tom Platt added further gloss to the moment by converting with aplomb and, against the run of play, Richmond were 12-5 ahead.

Whilst Richmond still struggled to retain any continuity of possession, the balance of the game had now changed, and, in the last minutes of the half, the home side turned the screw further. Once again, Cousins was prominently involved, a beautifully judged line kick gaining some forty metres and setting up his side in the opposition 22.

At the line out, the Worthing throw overshot their jumpers and was claimed by Richmond flanker Robin O’Sullivan.

With quick ball and the backs lined out wide, Richmond had a clear opportunity for a try but flanker Hewick came up off side to spoil the moment and took a yellow card for his troubles.

Platt made no mistake with the kick and Richmond were slightly fortunately leading 15-5 at half time.

With Worthing one man short, Richmond started the second half with clear intent to press the advantage. When Tom Gregory made a half break, Browne was on his shoulder to take the pass and burst into space. Spotting the opportunity, fellow winger James Greenwood did very well to get himself outside Browne in perfect scoring position but the pass did not come and the moment was lost.

However, Richmond did not have to wait long to extend their lead and it came from the power of the forwards.

Under pressure at the tight scrum, the Worthing back row came round offside and Platt kicked unerringly to take the score to 18-5.

This was to prove the last score of the game. Platt missed one more penalty chance, again won by the scrum, and Worthing battled mightily to get back into the game.

Richmond continued to get the worst of the referee’s decisions and this meant that Worthing got plenty of ball.

However the Richmond defence was simply magnificent, some of the tackling bone shuddering and the organisation was faultless.

Skipper Tom George led by huge example and Worthing palpably ran out of ideas to break the defensive wall.

Trying to put more pace on their game, the visitors simply made more mistakes as the home side’s aggressive defence took its toll.

Harry Edwards provided Richmond’s best attacking moment in the last quarter, but Richmond could not quite get the support in place quickly enough and the admirable Worthing defence in turn swallowed up the moment.

Tom Gregory and man of the match Will Browne were called on to make crucial tackles in the final moments and Richmond ultimately deserved to take the honours for taking their chances and defending like champions.

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