Hartpury 12 – 15 Richmond

A penalty kick by the unflappable Rob Kirby, the last action of an intense but ultimately unsatisfying encounter, was the difference between these two evenly-matched teams on a wet and gloomy Gloucestershire afternoon that marked Richmond skipper Will Warden’s, 150th appearance, writes Paul Kirby.

In truth, this was not a game that will linger long in the memory, although that will not concern Richmond, who battled to their fifth Championship win elevating them to sixth position in the league, that is becoming a very encouraging season.

Hartpury, meanwhile, will reflect on a performance that contained simply too many errors. It is hard to remember any periods of sustained home pressure from the game and at no time was the Richmond try-line under threat.

In part, this was due to some resolute and physical defending from Richmond, who demonstrated many of the qualities that have seen them win five of their last seven games.

Heavy rain fell throughout the game, and although the surface stood up well, a greasy ball made life difficult for both teams. Unsurprisingly, both sides opted to kick the ball consistently which, whilst being the smart play, did little to entertain the crowd.

When the ball was not in the air, it was being driven up by the forwards. In this regard, Richmond had the edge as they were less prone to handling errors while Hartpury had no players who showed the physicality needed to get across the gain-line.

Hartpury had started marginally the brighter, and in difficult conditions it was no surprise that penalties started to come.

James Williams, recruited from Molesey, comfortably slotted kicks in the 6th, 16th and 22nd minutes to ease Hartpury into a 9-0 lead and, one Luc Jones break aside, which was somewhat wasted by a wild pass, there was little threat from the visitors.

Everything changed just before the half-hour. A promising box kick was chased by Hartpury winger Ed Coulson, but he inexplicably missed his man and Richmond launched a counter.

Jordan Simpson-Hefft collected the ball, made a neat swerve and scampered down the touchline gaining thirty metres that led to a penalty. Kirby managed a break from fielding high balls to push his side close to the Hartpury line.

Chris Davies won the line out and advanced to the line. Although the resulting drive was held up, Hartpury’s reprieve was temporary. Richmond were awarded a 5 metre scrum resulting in a perfect pass to Luc Jones who showed the hosts a cheeky dummy before scooting over for Richmond’s first try.

The second half was more of the same. Richmond in a more disciplined mood, took the lead, again from an error, when Ed Sheldon was unnecessarily charged down deep in his own 22, forcing Hartpury to scramble the ball into touch. From a resulting lineout, the Richmond pack drove hard through multiple phases before hooker Ross Grimstone finally crossed the whitewash.

Kirby converted before he and Williams, twice, exchanged further penalties to leave the score at 12-12 going into the dying seconds.

Kirby’s long range kick for the match fell just short, but Hartpury’s clearance was poor and, after another penalty award for not rolling away, Kirby made no mistake with the final kick of the match.

Richmond Director of Rugby, Steve Hill said, “We showed a lot of patience and our physicality really pleased me.

"Our captain Will Warden was immense and yet again, Rob Kirby’s kicking was nerveless. Our guys will be very pleased with that win. To have five wins from nine games that leaves us sixth in the table shows just how much this side has improved.”

Hartpury Director of Rugby, John Barnes, was understandably frustrated by his side’s performance. “Obviously the weather played a big part,” he said, “but we were pretty poor from start to finish.

"Two errors gifted Richmond field position which led to both tries and then, when we got into position to go for the lineout drive ourselves, we were unable to execute. We’ve got to be able to find ways to score tries. Richmond did that today and we didn’t, which was very disappointing.”

The next two weekend’s see Richmond back at the Athletic ground. The first match on Saturday against high flier Cornish Pirates followed by a televised Sunday derby game against ground share opponents London Scottish.

Hartpury RFC: Wilcox, Coulson, Boulton, Eves, Sheldon, Williams (Pens 6, 16, 22, 48, 70), Chapman; Murphy, Tanner, Harden, Dancer, Oakley, Langley, Gilbert, Grieve. Subs: Crane, Flook, Gibson, Edwards, Dyer, Perry, Cochrane.

Richmond Rugby: Kirby (Con 45, Pens 65, 80), Woodward, Mitchell, MacLean-Dents, Simpson-Hefft, Gabbitas, Jones (Try 29); Cunnew, Grimstone (Try 44), Trenier, Warden, Davies, Liston, Allcock, Parke. Subs: Phipps, Goodrick-Clarke, Crawford, Adamson, Swan, Saysell, Tarrant.

Referee: Michael Hudson Attendance: 733