RICHMOND director of rugby Steve Hill praised his side’s perseverance as they marked their long-awaited return to action with victory over Hull Ionians, writes Harry Nightingale.

With their supposed first game of 2014 at Coventry postponed due to bad weather, the last time Richmond had seen any SSE National League One action prior to this weekend was December 21.

And this showed in the first half on Saturday as they were locked at 17-17 against basement boys Hull Ionians – Martin Freeman, Rob Alexander and Afi Okeshola going over.

But after the break Richmond pulled away from their visitors thanks to Okeshola’s second effort and a score for James Greenwood – with Hull Ionians only second half points coming from a converted penalty try right at the death.

And while Hill admitted his side were far from perfect, he was adamant it was certainly a performance in the right direction giving the team’s lack of competitive rugby.

“The first 40 minutes reflected the fact that we had not played for three weeks, especially when Hull were in possession,” he said.

“We were very rusty in the first half and I think that was just because we hadn’t played for so long and it took some time to get back into the rhythm of things.

“We talked about it at half-time and we were better in the second half and our thought our performance in the second half, yet again, was very strong.

“Our pace and precision significantly improved and five tries against such committed opponents is a terrific outcome.”

The win sees Richmond move up to 11th in the table, although they are far from being out of danger as they sit just four points off the relegation places.

And the crucial clashes come thick and fast as the season winds to a conclusion, with a trip to Cinderford next up for Hill’s men this weekend.

Cinderford are just one point and one place above the drop zone themselves and Hill is urging more of the same from his troops in a bid to add some extra breathing space between them and their fellow strugglers.

“Overall it was a good win against Hull Ionians, setting us up well for a crucial match at Cinderford next Saturday,” Hill added.

“I have three players back from injury next week which will make selection more interesting. A bonus point was good, they’re all important now and hopefully we can do the same next up against Cinderford.”

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