Richmond suffered their first defeat in 11 matches, falling to a tough 19-12 loss to a determined Rosslyn Park outfit.

The visitors staged a brave comeback in the second half of this local derby and fully earned a crucial bonus point for getting back within seven points of their second placed rivals. However, Rosslyn Park’s two tries in the first half proved crucial. Richmond now sit seven league points ahead of Park with five games to play.

With the game played on a Friday night on a 4G pitch, Richmond had plenty of adjustment to make, in addition to the unfamiliar dry and still weather conditions. 

The game started predictably, each side testing the other with a range of kicks and finding very little go forward when the ball was moved wider. Richmond were first on the scoreboard with a scrum penalty, Paul Doran-Jones being penalised for going down on his knee. The kick was straight, and Tom Hodgson made no mistake.

The lead lasted four minutes. Park mounted a drive from a lineout and got immediate traction, progressing twenty metres. Referee Nick Wood then awarded a penalty for illegally stopping the maul, and Craig Holland kicked for the corner. Once again, Park set up for the drive and advantage was played, after another penalty was signalled. With all the forwards drawn into stopping the maul, fly-half Holland took full advantage, stepping back and inside the defence as the backs struggled to get back out wide. Holland added the conversion.

Both sides made errors in the tense atmosphere. Firstly, Park kicked straight out after taking a quick lineout. They were then penalised at the resulting lineout and Hodgson kicked his second penalty from the wide left. 

Then, after Lynagh had made a half break and his side had a penalty, Richmond missed touch as they kicked for the corner. Holland was the key man for Park, always challenging with his running and constantly looking up to identify space with his varied kicking. After 21 minutes, he set his side up five metres out, but Richmond mounted enough pressure to disrupt the throw and clear.

The visitors held a definite upper hand at the tight scrum, winning two more scrum penalties in quick succession. They suffered a blow when Ross Grimstone came off after a knock, but Charlie Gibbings was again an excellent substitute. 

By contrast, Park looked most dangerous at the lineout, from where they set up driving mauls, which Richmond struggled to stop. 

In the final minutes of the first half, Park took full advantage, working their way up the touchline to win a penalty. Five metres out, they hammered the line, but the defence was admirable and somehow held out as the ball was relentlessly 

worked, phase by phase, across the pitch. Finally, in the right hand corner, the big forwards got into place and Doran-Jones found the space to drive over. Holland added a good conversion for a 14-6 half time lead.

Richmond started the second half without the injured Lynagh, who was replaced by Charlie Mulchrone. 

Immediately Richmond looked to have stepped up a gear and made early inroads, Jamie Gibbs, Cameron Mitchell and Mulchrone combining well to earn a penalty. This time, Hodgson kicked for the corner and Alex Bibic secured the ball before his pack drove forward. Somehow Park stopped the maul, but the forwards stayed patient, picking and driving till a penalty was awarded under the posts. Hodgson made no mistake.

Richmond now looked much more dangerous, with extra pace in their game. After 55 minutes, they reduced the deficit to two points. Hodgson provided the set up, finding space in the 22 with a well judged kick. Park were harried as they tried to clear and conceded a penalty. Richmond again pummelled the line, after the maul was stopped and an offside penalty was awarded. Mr Wood’s yellow card must have been twitching.

Richmond had further chances and were held up after another attacking lineout. This time the Richmond front-row were penalised as they mounted another mighty shove. Andy Boyce never stopped tackling and made a good run but the move petered out. Park’s best weapon was always the drive and it proved crucial in the 73rd minute. Richmond had a straightforward opportunity to clear an attack but Hodgson, receiving the ball slightly behind him, kicked straight out. The half-backs had both played excellent games but this proved a crucial point.

Park set up twenty metres out and once again mounted a drive. This time, Richmond seemed to have held out but, with the back-row bound in, Hugo Ellis broke off on the blindside and slipped a pass inside to Dan Laventure, who dived over in the corner. Crucially, Holland missed the conversion so the lead was seven points.

Richmond undoubtedly looked the stronger side in the final minutes as a succession of Park players went down with cramp. Mulchrone was everywhere, winning turnovers and prompting his side forward. However, it was not quite enough and Park managed to keep the ball, deep in their 22, for the final two minutes.

Director of Rugby Steve Hill said post-game: “The boys are disappointed with this result. Our scrum was excellent and we created some good chances but unfortunately our precision and accuracy were not good enough at key moments. We will regroup and ensure we improve ahead of the next match against Sale.”

Tickets are on sale for Richmond’s next home fixture against Sale FC on Saturday 21st March (KO 3pm). Click here to purchase tickets.