Richmond’s first long league journey into the North brought a rude awakening, as Sedgley Park scored three second half tries to claim a five point 37-17 triumph.
The margin of victory may have been slightly exaggerated but Richmond had a lesson in the clinical efficiency needed at this level.
There were two changes to Richmond’s starting fifteen, Matt Keville returning at fly half and Danny Parkinson rotating with Ali Lyon. On the bench there was a debut for Louis Grimoldby, on loan
from the Harlequins Academy.
If the long journey North was a new experience, Richmond settled very quickly and dominated the first half hour, playing confident rugby.
Will Warden again set the tone with an authoritative catch at the kick off and James Greenwood was soon testing the home defence.
However knock ons at critical moments spoiled the early pressure and Park were first on the board when the visitors lost possession after a maul and the resultant Park attack was stopped at the
cost of a penalty, converted by Matt Riley.
Richmond opened their scoring after twelve minutes. Jason Phipps and Toby Quarendon combined very well to set up the initial break and the Tigers, as Park are known, conceded a penalty.
Taking a line kick, the visitors set up possession half way into the home 22 and from the line out Charlie Lenygon tapped down to a rampaging Phipps who burst to the line with a good turn of speed.
Tom Platt converted.
Five minutes later, Riley retrieved three points for the Tigers as the visitors came in from the side at a tackle.
But Richmond looked dominant at this stage and a commanding scrum set up the second try.
With the Tigers in full retreat, the visitors ran the ball down the line to Greenwood and when the move was stopped, the ball was recycled well and Tom Gregory was able to twist and turn his way
over from ten metres for a good try, again converted by Platt.
Richmond now looked good value for their eight point lead but the momentum was stalled by a sequence of penalties, offside or not rolling away being the common offences.
As a result, Park worked their way into the Richmond 22 and Keville was yellow carded for coming in from the side.
The challenge now was to hold out with fourteen men till half time. For five minutes, Richmond did very well to repel everything the Tigers threw at them.
But they failed to clear the ball when given the chance and when a line out ball went astray, the home side finally made good use of the extra man to send in left winger Alex Hurst under the posts.
Riley’s conversion reduced Richmond’s half time lead to one point.
Boosted by this psychological fillip and playing into their favourite corner, the Tigers looked a different side in the second half.
Once again Richmond did themselves no favours by conceding too many penalties and Riley was just off target in the opening minute.
But it was a try which gave the home side the lead, the increasingly influential fly half Steve Collins nipping in when the defence anticipated another crash pass to the bullocking Riley.
Nevertheless Tom Platt pulled back three points after forty-seven minutes and the visitors still looked very much in the game.
In the fifty-second minute, Quarendon did very well to claim a high ball under pressure and retain possession, Park coming off their feet in defence. Opting boldly for a line kick with the penalty,
Richmond threw away the opportunity when the kick was overhit and the ball went dead for a scrum back. Unfortunately it was a critical error.
Two minutes later, Park made no mistake with their scoring opportunity. Problems started when Keville, running back in defence, pulled up injured and was replaced by Grimoldby.
Even as the visitors were reorganising, the Tigers mounted another attack closte to the scrum and the Richmond defence could not hold out winger Philip Largen.
With the lead now 30-17, the Tigers looked full of running, their powerful, direct attacks sapping the Richmond defence.
Centre Richard Wainwright duly scored the fourth try, benefitting from the referee’s decision that an earlier knock on was exclusively off the knee.
Richmond battled to the end and two late chances were tantalisingly close, one when the ball squirmed away from Will Browne following a charge down and one, when Grimoldby effected a neat kick and
chase to set up Greenwood.
But the final pass was ankle height and the ball dropped. It typified a frustrating day but credit to Park and Richmond will have learned a lot from this bruising trip to Lancashire.