Richmond edge past struggling Park
With the rain lashing down on a heavy pitch, Richmond and Westcombe Park fought out a bruising, muddy, slightly old fashioned battle.
The conditions proved a great leveller as the league leaders squeezed out a victory against obdurate and determined opponents, who belied their position at the bottom of the league table.
The Combe forwards gave no quarter and the whole side tackled and scrapped their hearts out in their bid to get some sort of return against the form book, but it was Richmond who came out on top 13-6.
This was another match which showed there are no easy games in the National Two league, especially at this stage of the season, and Richmond had to maintain full concentration to secure four more vital points.
Richmond made four changes from the side, which played so well at Redruth the previous week.
Matt Keville and Barney Pascall returned in the backs and Kyle Sincker and Dave Burr in the forwards.
The game started in steady drizzle, the rain having arrived as forecast in early afternoon after a generally dry week.
The home side started well, grabbing possession from the kick off and retaining possession well to probe the Combe defence in their 22.
Richmond ran an early penalty and soon showed their power in a tight scrum.
But the visitors held out well and after four minutes of defence, started to turn the tables on their opponents.
Playing neat, organised rugby, Combe worked their way into the home half and forced a penalty for not rolling away at the tackle.
Full back Ryan Fuller made no mistake with the kick to give his side an early 0-3 lead.
Richmond soon returned to the attack but, with the rain getting heavier, there was little scope for sleight or speed of foot and it became an increasing battle of direct collisions between two bruising packs.
The power of the home eight in the scrum was Richmond’s biggest advantage and they made it count in the sixteenth minute when the forwards marched the visitors back a good ten metres to gain a penalty in front of the posts.
Tom Platt kicked the penalty to even the score at 3-3.
Five minutes later, full back Platt added a second penalty from 45 metres, following a good line kick by Matt Keville.
Combe will be irritated that back chat had given Platt a crucial extra ten metres to bring the kick within his impressive range.
In the last minutes of the half, Richmond came very close to the first try, a powerful maul being illegally pulled down.
With the home side opting for the scrum, the odds seemed strong that the pack would drive over but the ball rocketed out of the back of the scrum and the moment was frustratingly lost.
Richmond wanted a good start to the second half to secure the next score and get Combe chasing the game. Their opponents had other ideas.
After five minutes, Richmond conceded two successive penalties, the second of which, for offside, was within Fuller’s range and took the score to 6-6.
The Richmond forwards still looked the stronger of the packs and, time and again, they used their weight and power to drive at the heart of the Combe defence in an effort to force an opening.
However, Combe successfully slowed the home ball and handling was increasingly difficult in the torrential rain.
The home side nevertheless stuck at their task and finally got reward to score the one decisive try of the match in the nineteenth minute.
Pinning their opponents back deep in the 22, Richmond now relentlessly forced Combe into desperate defence, conceding a sequence of penalties.
Denied apparent advantage on a couple of occasions by referee Keith Lewis, the home forwards used their set piece skills to set up the try.
A drive from a line out created the initial momentum and was followed by a big scrum which extended the pressure.
Still Combe managed to hold out on their line but Richmond remained patient and, when they finally secured an overlap on the left touchline, a long lobbed pass found James Greenwood, who kept low enough to dive in at the corner.
Platt added a wonderful conversion to give his side a seven point lead.
Combe battled on and had their chances, notably a ten minute spell around the half hour, when they retained the ball well and established a strong attacking position.
But Richmond’s defence always looked admirably tight and Combe did not quite have the resource to provide the unexpected.
The home side dominated the final minutes, Platt hitting the post with a penalty after more good mauling work by the forwards.
Right at the end, Richmond had an easier kick which could have denied the visitors a point.
That would have been harsh and nobody complained when Richmond simply booted the ball into touch to ensure a hard earned victory over doughty opponents.
Flanker Doug Abbott was awarded man of the match against his old club.