Richmond stretched their lead to ten points at the top of National League 1 with a 27-10 bonus point win over Canterbury RFC. 

The visitors made them battle all the way and the precious fourth try came only in the last action of the game. 

Second placed Rosslyn Park, whom Richmond visit on Friday night, came narrowly unstuck against third placed Chinnor.  A try two minutes from the end decided that contest.

Whilst Storm Jorge was not as forbidding as predicted, occasional icy showers and a strong crosswind made conditions challenging. Despite all the rain, the playing surface was remarkably firm underfoot. 

Richmond fielded a familiar looking side whilst visitors Canterbury included Richmond favourite Matt Corker and tight-head prop Stefan North, another Richmond old boy, who is now at his third Kent club.

Richmond could hardly have asked for a better start, Canterbury getting themselves into trouble under the posts and conceding a penalty for holding on. 

The score was very nearly increased in the next minute, Cam Mitchell and Ronnie McLean combining to run back turnover ball before the captain chipped ahead to the corner. The bounce just eluded him.

However, Canterbury gradually settled and were encouraged by a strong run from flanker Freddie Edwards. Richmond failed to clear the danger, but the visitors’ pack rumbled close before a turnover earned a penalty. Canterbury fly-half Charlie Kingsman used the conditions intelligently, testing the defence with some neat breaks as well as kicking efficiently into space. Richmond seemed to lack their usual spark, the notable exception being the Bolney Wine Estate Player of the match Toby Saysell, who put in some walloping tackles to add impetus to the defence.

After twenty minutes, the home side got their first score. Richmond earned a succession of penalties, Canterbury conceding an extra ten metres as Charlie Mulchrone tapped and ran. Finally, Richmond set up five metres out, the pack drove forward, and Tom Pashley was able to splinter off and touch down in the corner.

The rest of the first half was largely dominated by the visitors. With a big front five, the pack earned parity in the few set scrums whilst Corker ensured a good supply of lineout ball. Canterbury were patient in attack and retained the ball well, happy to run back Richmond’s clearance kicks. Skipper Ricky Mackintosh had one probing run but the defence held and the ball was cleared to just over half way. However, the visitors now worked an overlap on the short side and, when the cover stopped the attack at the corner, number eight Tyler Oliver was on hand to dive over. Kingsman added an excellent conversion.

Richmond wanted a good start to the second half but instead conceded a soft penalty. Muddle over the swirling kick-off ball led to a knock on, before the front-row were pinged at the scrum. Kingsman’s kick gave his side the lead. 

This proved to be the rocket that Richmond needed. The scrum now drove their opponents back off the ball and Richmond gained further ground with a penalty for an illegal tackle. Hodgson, as accurate as ever with his kicking, got his side within five metres and the pack drove forward, Charlie Gibbings getting the touchdown.

With Toby Eaton off the field, the versatile Mulchrone moved to fullback, where he showed plenty of class. Jamie Gibbs came on at scrum-half and the forwards started to earn quicker ball, as Canterbury’s big forwards tired. 

After fifty-eight minutes, Richmond got their third try with another drive from the lineout, David Banfield burrowing over. 

Richmond had twenty minutes to get the precious bonus point and now looked in control. Chances went begging, including one set up under the posts and Richmond were on the wrong end of a couple of decisions on high tackles.

Mulchrone provided the initial break to get his side close before he was stopped by a head high tackle. Richmond worked their way to five metres and had two successive five metre lineouts. 

Somehow a brave Canterbury side held out and a five metre scrum was awarded under the posts. Richmond opted to get the ball out quickly and the ball was moved swiftly to Hamish Graham, who still had plenty to do. He did it well, taking the pass, battering forward and diving for the try line, his power getting him over the bonus point score.

Director of Rugby Steve Hill said post-game: “This was an important bonus point win against a much improved Canterbury team. I was pleased with our work rate and intensity especially in the second half. The pressure we exerted finally gained the rewards required. We know next Friday we will have to be more clinical and accurate.”

Richmond now look forward to Friday’s huge local derby against Rosslyn Park at the Rock (Kick-off 7:45pm).