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Hill hails Richmond dominance over Henley
11:00am Monday 3rd February 2014 in Sport
Director of rugby Steve Hill hailed Richmond's most complete performance of the season at a rain-soaked Athletic Ground on Saturday, which kept his men above the National Division One dropzone.
With the rain clouds finally relenting and the ground staff working wonders on a drenched ground, Richmond made it all worthwhile with a commanding 25-10 victory and four precious points against Henley Hawks.
The win temporarily lifted the home side to 11th place in the league table, but seven sides remain closely locked together in the bottom half of the table.
"This was possibly our best balanced performance of the season," said Hill.
"We broke their defensive line a number of times and showed good decisiveness in attack.
"When Henley had the ball we worked incredibly hard to nullify their attacks and to stop them scoring a try for 78 minutes showed how well the whole squad performed in defence."
With the return of a number of injured players over the last couple of weeks, Richmond were close to full strength and made just one change from the previous week, with JP Attlee making his first start of the season after a five minute cameo against Doncaster.
Henley made the better start, winning early possession and retaining the ball well as their big runners tested the home defence.
Richmond held out well, Jason Phipps showing the way with an emphatic head on tackle five metres out.
But referee Fergus Kirby had his hand out and when a Henley foot was just in touch at the corner flag, play was called back for a penalty and James Comben made no mistake.
If Henley had showcased the best of their game in the initial minutes, Richmond now raised their game and took full advantage of good work at the kick off, Rory Damant and Warren Abrahams making half breaks to earn Rob Kirby a straightforward penalty chance.
Heartened by their first score, the home side dominated subsequent play, almost adding a first try through a cross kick to Rob Alexander and a sniping break from James Gibbs.
After fourteen minutes, Richmond settled for a second penalty as Henley illegally spoiled opposition ball, Kirby’s successful kick being well struck in a gusting cross wind.
Fly half Kirby was again prominent, when a step and good acceleration took him through a gap with just one man to beat.
Harrison Edwards and Jeremy Cunnew supported well but the visitors held out when the referee adjudged obstruction as the forwards attempted to rumble over. However, from the subsequent play, Richmond made no mistake.
Edwards managed to steal Henley line out ball and a long pass from Gibbs gave Abrahams enough space to beat his man and set up Martin Freeman on the charge.
The centre, man of the match on the day after a number of good performances, dodged and weaved his way through several defenders, staying on his feet with enough momentum to reach the try line for a very good try, converted by Kirby for a 13-3 lead.
Play was very much end to end in the remainder of the half, both sides incurring regular penalties which denied any momentum.
Edwards made one thirty metre break and Luke Carter, the Henley scrum half, also found himself clear at one moment.
But there were no further scores, a very long Kirby kick in the final minute finishing well short.
The first score in the second half was likely to prove crucial and Richmond wasted no time in extending their lead.
Alexander tapped back vital kick off ball and Cunnew was again prominent in the follow up.
JP Attlee, looking more confident and influential by the minute, crucially broke a tackle and Freeman timed the final pass perfectly to send Alexander clear for the second try.
Attlee and Freeman were soon in action again as they combined to good effect but a forward pass prevented the score.
The Hawks were now giving away constant penalties and the home side had a further chance to drive over from a line out but were held up on the line.
With fifty minutes gone, Richmond had another penalty chance and this time Gibbs tapped and ran with good vision, Damant putting Will Browne into space for the winger to burst through a surprised defence and accelerate outside the final defender for a good winger’s try in the corner.
With half an hour to go, Richmond looked in sufficient control to anticipate the fourth try and a crucial bonus point, but it never happened.
The best chance came with ten minutes to go when the tight scrum drove the opposition back fifteen metres to earn a penalty.
In the 22, the forwards drove powerfully from the line out but were penalised at the critical moment for driving into their own man.
With five minutes to go, a tight scrum under the posts presented the last big opportunity, but the Hawks somehow skewed the scrum and seized the loose ball to escape.
In the final couple of minutes, Attlee was randomly yellow carded for not rolling away and Henley secured some consistent possession.
Finally they got reward with the last play of the game, Liam O’Neil beating some tired defenders out on the right wing to score in the corner after a mazy thirty metre run. The winger added a very good conversion.
Tries: Freeman, Alexander, Brown.
Team: W.Abrahams, W.Browne, M.Freeman, R.Damant, R.Alexander, R.Kirby(C.Whiteley), J.Gibbs(J.Kyle), A.Okeshola(D.Parkinson), J.Phipps(G.Drew), J.Cunnew, C.Davies(C.Lenygon), W.Warden, H.Edwards, J.Attlee, J.Thompson.