Another nail biting finish this time resulted in a deserved 24-20 victory for Richmond over first time visitors Blaydon. This second victory from three games leaves Richmond in fourth position in National One with eleven points, writes Jen Gadsby-Peet.
Three first half tries and a 21-10 half time lead had provided hopes for a comfortable victory but their northern opponents, previously undefeated this season, again demonstrated that victories have to be hard earned to the final whistle.
Richmond made four changes to the previous week, Luke Cousins and Ali Lyons returning, Doug Abbott making his first seasonal reappearance and Charlie Lenygon, ex-Taunton, making his first team debut.
On the bench there were first time selections for James Butler, ex Old Patesians, and Robbie Shaw, ex-Bristol and American Eagles, taking his new side’s international tally to two (Toby Quarendon having played for Malta).
The first minutes of the game were littered with penalties, as referee Michael Tutty established how he wanted the game played.
Both sides struggled to adapt, holding on being the prime area of contention, and there were five penalties in the first four minutes. As a result of the fractured play, Richmond were slow to get going and it was with the run of play that Blaydon opened the scoring after ten minutes.
Another penalty, this time for not rolling away, gave Blaydon the chance to kick for the corner and, from the line out, flanker Tom Bell got the touchdown after his side turned the home team’s defensive maul.
Fly half Andrew Baggett added the conversion.
Gradually, Richmond now started to get into the game, claiming more possession and working their way into the opposition 22.
Under pressure, handling mistakes cost momentum and the Blaydon defence was well organised.
However the first try came after twenty-five minutes and followed a longer spell of Richmond possession, initiated by a Quarendon chip to the corner. The forwards made the initial yards, picking and driving to good effect to earn a set scrum in a good position.
From the scrum the ball was passed down the line and James Greenwood made the crucial incursion from the blindside, drawing in defenders to create an overlap. Scrum half Jamie Gibbs dummied outside and then cut in for a good try, converted by James Platt.
Seven minutes later, Richmond were ahead after their second try, the best of the game.
This time Luke Cousins established position in the 22 with a neat kick after good work by Tom George and scrum half Gibbs.
From the line out, the home forwards worked together well, getting pace and power into their game and making yards with each break.
Finally debutant Lenygon took the ball under the posts and drove over well for a simple Platt conversion.
Baggett soon reduced the lead with a penalty after another four minutes as Richmond went offside in defence.
But the lead was quickly restored in the final play of the half when Blaydon ran out of ideas against the hard hitting home defence and Greenwood intercepted a tired pass to hare sixty metres for his team’s third try and an eleven point half time lead.
With Danny Parkinson replacing Ali Lyon at half time, Richmond started the second half confidently and could have completed the fourth try in the opening minutes.
Twice Greenwood made half breaks and twice follow up passes were knocked on.
Richmond are finding out that the pace of games at this level is much quicker and robust defences are still forcing more errors than last season. Time and again, Richmond set up good positions only for final passes to go astray.
The Richmond back row were in fine form - Doug Abbott being adjudged man of the match - and another strong Chris Davies run created a further opportunity which could not be finished.
The backs had their moments too, Will Browne bouncing and swerving his way through the heart of the Blaydon defence but once again frustration followed.
With the focus on whether the home side could get their fourth try, Blaydon now quietly worked their way back into the game.
Platt and Baggett exchanged penalties before full back Gave Painter scored his side’s second try in the thirty-eighth minute.
The score followed a Blaydon penalty for offside and for once the home defence on the short side were left exposed as the visitors worked an overlap.
The last few minutes were now agonising as five minutes of extra time were played.
A hack ahead created sudden panic and Browne was unluckily adjudged at fault from a tangle of pursuing legs.
Fourteen man Richmond then had to defend a concerted Blaydon line out and drive.
But the home defence held out convincingly and the ball was finally cleared to the relative safety of the half way line.
Another good win had been achieved and more lessons learned by an improving and hard working side.