Mid-table rivals Richmond and Loughborough Students, both promoted this season, fought out an entertaining National One draw on a bitterly cold Easter Saturday.
Both sides scored three tries and two penalties and the 27-27 result was a fair reflection of the overall balance of play.
Remarkably it was Richmond’s fourth draw of a season in which seven other games have ended with scores within four points of each other.
Richmond fielded a familiar team, with Juliano Fiori making his first start of the season and Timmy Walford making a welcome return from injury to feature on the bench.
Will Warden, Jason Phipps and Matt Keville were all Loughborough old boys, showcasing the close links between the clubs.
The game started with occasional sleet blowing across a firm surface, which was in remarkably good condition.
Loughborough earned the first small victory, when the Richmond front row came up at the first scrum.
However, the visitors got the first points on the board when the Students went offside defending a well-organised sequence of attacks by the big Richmond forwards.
Tom Platt made no mistake on a day when the two respective kickers demonstrated high class skills.
Straight from the kick off, Richmond then gave away a penalty and ten minutes later fly half Andy Hall put his side in the lead when Richmond were pinged for not releasing at the tackle.
At this stage, the Students had more of the ball but the Richmond defence was up very fast and aggressively and the dangerous Loughborough backs could find little space.
Finally Richmond worked their way into the home 22 for only the second time in the game and they immediately made the opportunity count, Danny Parkinson driving over after a patient and well-drilled build up from the line out, with skipper Warden to the fore.
The visitors held the lead for 15 minutes but, as half time loomed, the Students regained the lead - winger Chris Kinloch was involved in the build up before the mobile lock Alistair Bone burst his way through to slam the ball down over the line.
Richmond did well to counter quickly, with the forwards again working well together. Karl Outen , JP Attlee and flanker Fiori each made good ground and once again the team showed admirable patience to build the pressure in the 22 before skipper Warden triumphantly pirouetted his way over under the posts, as the Students finally ran out of defenders. At half time Richmond led 13-17.
The visitors’ best period of play followed in the next 20 minutes. Louis Grimoldby, varying his game with increasing authority, kicked beautifully for the corner. The initial opportunity was lost when the line out throw went too long but Loughborough soon conceded a penalty just out of reach of Platt’s range.
The pack now looked much more comfortable in the scrums and honours were evened. After seven minutes, pressure did tell and after the forwards, Outen prominent, had battered the home defence, scrum half Jamie Gibbs squirted through a gap to create the initial break.
The ball was quickly recycled out to the left and James Greenwood passed neatly back inside to Jamie Falconer for a good try wide out, well converted by Platt.
When the full back converted another penalty soon afterwards, Richmond had a 14-point lead with twenty minutes to go.
Having kicked away too much possession, Loughborough now determined to run the ball back at every opportunity and, with space starting to open up, their backs soon showed their running skills.
The dangerous Kinloch made the initial break but was hunted down by Falconer who tackled him well. However the Loughborough support was first to the ball and hooker Tom Crozier just managed to get the ball down when over the line.
Importantly, Hall nailed a good conversion.
Four minutes later, the scores were level and the Students’ third try was a beauty. A training ground move from the scrum stretched the Richmond defence and set up Courtenay Morrison to run a lovely angle, spread-eagling the defence before stepping the full back for a fine try under the posts.
With 10 minutes to go, there was time for taut nerves at both ends. Loughborough dominated possession, getting the best of some marginal refereeing decisions, but the strong defences held out and both sides had to settle for a draw and two points.
Across two games, only one point split the two sides.
Richmond host Fylde this weekend.