With an exhilarating and confident display of attacking rugby, Richmond brushed off visitors Taunton by eight tries to two.
Together with the Old Albanians’ victory over Hartpury College, this result extended Richmond’s lead at the top of the National Two league table to nine points and sets up nicely next week’s clash at St Albans.
On a cold, dry day, Richmond’s side was largely unchanged from the previous week, only Ali Lyon and Kyle Sinckler swapping roles and Duncan Peters coming in as a late replacement on the bench for Greg Sullivan.
Looking thoroughly re-invigorated by their December break, Richmond started strongly and could have had a try in the first minute, if James Brooks’ long, flat pass hadn’t gone to ground.
Instead, they opened the scoring after three minutes when Tom Platt converted a penalty under the posts.
With the Richmond scrum looking strong and Chris Davies outstanding at the line out, possession was plentiful.
After eighteen minutes, the first try followed and it was set up when Harry Edwards ran a tap penalty at the heart of the Taunton defence.
Subsequently forced out wide, Richmond used quick scrum ball well, Tom Gregory battering his way through the first line of defence to create an overlap for full back Platt to score his side’s 50th home try of the season. There was no chance to enjoy this lead as Taunton countered from the kick off.
With the forwards all lined up to his right, the experienced Tony Yapp switched direction to the left.
The Richmond backs, covering the space, reacted quickly to gain possession and appeared to have an immediate opportunity for an overlap.
Howeve,r winger Reuben Haile, top try scorer in League Two, maintained his reputation as a prolific try poacher by intercepting the crucial pass and running thirty metres to open his side’s scoring. Yapp’s conversion brought the score to 8-7.
Richmond were not deterred.
In the remaining 20 minutes of the half, they showcased some top level rugby, forwards and backs inter-passing at will and monopolising possession.
The second home try stemmed from the forwards, the pack wheeling the scrum to earn turnover ball.
Quick ball provided plenty of options and James Brooks took full advantage, ghosting mazily through the Taunton defence for a good solo try.
The third try was the best team effort of the day.
With Haile lying temporarily prone, Richmond quickly spotted a big gap in the visitors’ defence.
Gregory once again did the spade work, supported by the flying Will Browne before Jamie Thompson and then Will Warden completed the move.
The vital bonus point try came in the 40th minute and followed a sequence of penalties and line out drives in the Taunton 22.
Finally the excellent referee, David Proctor, lost patience and yellow carded Taunton’s Dave Bates for pulling down the maul.
Once again Richmond went through their routine and Dave Burr was at the back of the maul for the touch down as the forwards again powered forward.
In the last action of the half, Taunton had a rare break when Ryan Edwards finally found a gap in the centre but a wonderful cover tackle by Browne snuffed out the danger and left the half time score 27-7.
The second half score(26-7) was virtually identical but there was only one score in the next half hour.
This was scored by Will Browne and was rather special.
The winger came into the line from the blind side and demonstrated electrifying speed and power to blast through the opposition defence and score in the opposite corner.
Perhaps Richmond then, understandably, relaxed a bit.
Certainly Taunton redoubled their efforts as they searched out a score to get back in the game.
Undoubtedly, the penetrating cold made handling increasingly difficult although both sides continued admirably to run the ball at every opportunity.
If the game therefore looked like drifting to a quiet conclusion, it all changed from the thirty-fourth minute, with four tries in the remaining minutes.
The home defence was as impressive as the attack and Taunton could not break the defensive line despite a spell of continued possession on the half hour.
When a move broke down and the ball went loose, Browne was quickly away, gathering a loose ball sixty metres out to accelerate away and hand off the remaining defence.
The only person who could keep up with him was the other Richmond winger, James Greenwood.
Browne, looking full of running, was immediately involved in the next try, which followed a good scrum and break by Davies, now at No 8.
The winger again showed his rare acceleration before passing inside to speeding substitute Duncan Peters, who scored with his first touch of the afternoon.
Platt’s conversion took the score to 46-7 but Taunton did not give up and, winning kick off ball, finally found space to set up winger Haile for a try in the corner.
Yapp added an excellent conversion to put some sort of gloss on the score line.
Fittingly Richmond had the last word. Skipper Tom George was taken out late, following his kick ahead and the home side ran the penalty.
The move appeared to break down but substitute scrum half Tom Drewe alertly spotted a gap and nipped through it at pace for the final try of the day, converted by Platt for a 53-14 final score.
Dave Burr, part of an impressive front row, was made man of the match for a lively display and some faultless line out throwing.
The crowd of over 600 will have gone home, thoroughly entertained by a high class Richmond performance and a good game of rugby, played in the right spirit by both sides.