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Ellis in fine form for Rosslyn Park
A pulsating local derby ended in a 28-20 win for Rosslyn Park over Richmond, but there was enough here to have both sets of supporters biting their nails.
Park had most of the early play, but were twice penalised for ‘not releasing’ when a score looked possible. Richmond looked potentially dangerous ball in hand, but Park’s speed to the tackle was excellent and pinned the visitors in their own half for the first five minutes.
When they did engineer an escape route, though, they gained a penalty just outside the 22 from which full-back Tom Platt made no mistake to put his side 3-0 ahead.
Park replied with a big attack from the restart and Richmond were eventually forced to concede a penalty, allowing the home side to equalise through fly half Ross Laidlaw.
Park soon dominated proceedings, but some well-organised and committed Richmond defending – allied to Park’s own errors when close to the try line – kept them in check. There was a long delay for an injury which saw Richmond lose their scrum half Robbie Shaw, which hardly helped their cause.
A very good move saw the home side almost score, only to knock-on at the vital moment. Further home pressure saw a horribly sliced clearance give Park an attacking line-out inside the Richmond 22, only for the throw to miss its target.
Eventually Richmond had to concede a penalty, out wide. Laidlaw made it look routine to put his side ahead for the first time at 6-3 on 24 minutes.
A further penalty in a similar position was hoofed to touch inside the visiting 22, but again Park could not win their own ball at the line-out. Charles Broughton made a tremendous dash from the wing but was pinged for not releasing. Laidlaw was given a slight chance from a long range penalty, but narrowly missed.
Park forced another line-out, set up a drive but conceded a penalty close to the line. A superb run by Nev Edwards, combining with David Vincent very nearly bore fruit but the Richmond defence rarely put a foot out of place and tackled ferociously.
When Park eventually did manage to drive over it was such a mangled mass of bodies that the referee could not possibly see whether or not the ball had been touched down. From the subsequent 5 metre scrum the visitors were under immense pressure and replacement scrum half Henry Taylor had to resort to extra-legal methods to prevent the score, leaving the referee little alternative but to show the yellow card.
Park opted to re-set the scrum and Hugo Ellis picked up the ball at the back and got over the line for a classic ‘number 8’ try. Laidlaw converted for 13-3, deep into first half injury time.
Whether Park’s minds were on the half-time cuppa or whatever, they still had time to concede a penalty from which Platt kicked Richmond to 13-6 at the interval, and his team must have been highly delighted to be only a converted try down having been pretty emphatically out-played thus far.
Park started the second period by gifting the visitors good field position with one of those “After you”, “No after you” moments where neither player actually catches the ball from kick off.
But the visitors were unable to exploit the situation and eventually Park nearly scored on the break, but again were penalised as the line beckoned. Fifteen minutes into the half Park did breach the visiting defence following a set piece and a move up the right, and when the ball was moved inside centre Steve Parsons spotted a gap and coasted through unmolested, Laidlaw converting for 20-6.
That should have broken Richmond’s resistance, but they were made of sterner stuff and, whilst they never really had a period of sustained pressure, they proved deadly on the counter attack. When they turned over possession five minutes later a slick move up the right saw the ball passed inside for centre Matt Keville to finish off, with Platt’s conversion bringing his side again within a score at 20-13.
If there was an element of fortune about how Hugo Ellis came to gain possession of the ball for Park’s try in reply to that, then the execution was still superb as he showed remarkable pace for a big man and, while he probably could have barged over the line himself, showed great awareness and unselfishness in off-loading to give the try to Steve Parsons who went in unchallenged for his second. Laidlaw’s conversion attempt narrowly missed, but at 25-13 with less than 15 minutes remaining it looked as if Park could concentrate on the four-try bonus point they needed.
Richmond had other ideas, and again proved devastating on the counter-attack, quickly using turned-over possession to launch a rapier attack up the right that saw replacement Harrison Edwards score. When Platt’s conversion went over after 71 minutes then, for all Park’s apparent superiority, there were still only 5 points to show for it. Park surged back and forced a penalty, which Laidlaw slotted over to put the win itself beyond doubt at 28-20.
Park again set about grabbing the further try they needed for a vital bonus point, forcing a penalty deep in Richmond territory which was kicked to touch for a lineout. As Park surged forward, the visitors were again forced to concede a penalty which was again hoofed to touch.
This time, however, Park lost the ball and Richmond launched another devastating counter-attack, now up the left. Park had the numbers back to defend and the ball was eventually knocked on anyway, but it was quite an end to a spirited local derby.
It was a pity both sides ended up in their own ways disappointed: Richmond will doubtless feel they deserved a losing bonus point, while Park will wonder how they had so much possession but failed to grab a four-try bonus. The answer to both probably lies in their opponents’ excellent defences.
Park: Edwards; Broughton, Parsons, Mackey, Vincent; Laidlaw; Heeks (Gash); Bigley (Ward), McGrath (Clark), Liffchak; Bowley, Boyle (McDonald); Baldwin (Campbell), Rowland, Ellis.
Park scorers: Parsons (2T), Ellis (T), Laidlaw (3P, 2C).