Richmond had the Friday night to remember with their best Championship result yet winning a fierce battle in the last minutes against a strong Doncaster Knights side, writes Paul Kirby.

The victory, the first against Doncaster at the Athletic ground for five years shows how the Richmond lads have come on leaps and bounds this season, having now won four of their last five league games. Doncaster managed four good tries and fully deserved their two league points but Richmond gained the win because they took their chances, forced the opposition into errors and again demonstrated the value of some outstanding teamwork.

Richmond made two late changes, Martin Freeman replacing Jono Woodward and Max Crawford coming in on the bench for Alex Humfrey. The Knights included fit again Charlie Foley and Lloyd Hayes in the backs and the returning Tongan international Jack Ram in the forwards.

In chilly but fine conditions with spectators numbering a best of season 1,054, Richmond kicked off and gained early confidence with barely a minute played, as full-back Rob Kirby slotted a penalty when the Knights were ruled offside. The visitors had an early chance to equalise from a scrum penalty but the kick was wide.

The first try came after seventeen minutes. Richmond cleared before winning a turnover in midfield. Freddie Gabbitass sent a kick deep for Charlie Foley to chase after and he did well to collect and evade capture to clear to touch. Richmond took the line out quickly and exploited a broken defensive line to spin wide and put winger Martin Freeman away to score a superb try down the right hand side. For the third game in a row, Kirby’s kicking was faultless and he added the conversion for a 10-0 lead. Kirby made the deficit 13 immediately after as the Knights gave away a penalty from the restart which the full back sent between the sticks.

The visitors shaken up now began to run with more purpose. Good work from Aaron Carpenter saw the number eight carry to just outside the home 22m before drawing a penalty which Humberstone put in the corner. A smart catch and drive was illegally dropped inches from the Richmond try line but from short range Colin Quigley barged his way over to score. Humberstone was off the mark with the extras.

Not content with one score, Doncaster’s Charlie Foley hit a good line to break through and accelerate into the Richmond 22m before feeding Tyson Lewis who, at full tilt, would not be stopped. Humberstone’s conversion found the uprights and bounced wide but momentum was now seemingly with the Knights.

However with just five minutes to go until the break, two errors deep in Doncaster’s own territory ended in two penalties successfully hit by Kirby to make the half time score 19-10.

Doncaster started the second half strongly causing some disruption in the home defence and Tyson Lewis very nearly got a second. He was stopped short but from the breakdown following, Richmond infringed and the Knights went to the corner. A well taken catch and drive was quickly rumbled over the line with Carpenter claiming the score.

Five minutes later the Knights got their fourth. A scrum penalty was kicked to touch just inside the home 22m and the Knights played off the top. At full steam Lloyd Hayes hit his line with pin point timing to burst through before evading another and offloading to Tom James. The replacement showed a good turn of foot to outstrip the covering defence and score and for the first time Humberstone added the extras, 19 - 22.

It now looked that Richmond’s game was up but, gradually they managed to fight back and now really imposed themselves on the game.

With Man of the Match Luc Jones prompting and varying his game with great intelligence, the forwards took increasing control and the whole side tackled their hearts out to contain any Doncaster counter attack. One brilliant cover tackle from Jordan Simpson-Hefft prevented what seemed a certain try from Andy Bulumakau. Substitutes Will Goodrick-Clarke and Toby Saysell added new impetus in attack and Jason Phipps’ accurate throwing steadied the line out.

In the 70th minute, Richmond battered the Knights’ line for a prolonged period, Chris Davies and Will Warden always to the fore. But when a five metre scrum was penalised, the Knights, who had defended bravely, looked likely to escape. However the home team had other ideas and when Rob Kirby kicked a penalty back into the 22, the forwards, showing the value of their fitness work, gathered again for another mighty onslaught. Jones set up Davies to get agonisingly close but the ball was retained and pressure maintained. Finally Goodrick-Clarke found the line and Richmond’s tenacity was rewarded. Kirby continued his immaculate display with the boot to make it 26-22 with only a couple of minutes to go.

The Knights made one last attack and Hayes found a breakthrough but unfortunately could not find his support and moments later Dean Richards blew the game to a close.

Steve Hill, Richmond Director of Rugby, commented; “What an amazing game and night! We knew Doncaster would be a huge test and so they were. Our ability to believe in each other, stay in the game and then bring pressure to bear in the final quarter was magnificent. The physicality of our defence and our patience in the final third were much improved from our last performance and in Rob Kirby we have a first class point’s machine. The atmosphere in the stands at the end of the game, in the players changing room post-match and then in the clubhouse with all our supporters was sensational. Money can buy many things-but it can’t but that.”

Disappointed Doncaster coach Paul Cooke said: “We probably didn’t deserve anything from the game. We started poorly and compounded error upon error. We got in front but our management of the game cost us.”

Richmond travel to Hartpury this Saturday, 2.30pm kick-off.

Tries: Freeman, Goodrick-Clarke Conversions: Kirby (2) Penalties: Kirby (4) Team: R.Kirby, J.Simpson-Hefft, C.Mitchell, R.McLean-Dents, M.Freeman (R.Adamson), F.Gabbitass (J.Swan), L.Jones, J.Cunnew (W.Goodrick-Clarke), R.Grimstone (J.Phipps), C.Trenier (J.Tarrant), W.Warden, C.Davies, J.Liston (T.Saysell), T.Allcock, J.Parker.