Richmond 21 Hartpury College 26
Back in September, as the new boys in the league, Hartpury received a harsh lesson at the hands of Richmond, shipping eight tries in a 17-59 home defeat. This performance, which brought the students their fourth successive win, underlined the strides that they have taken in becoming highly competitive in National One.
On an overcast and blustery day in south-west London the prospects for an open and entertaining game did not look good, yet this was exactly what these two sides produced.
The foundation for Hartpury’s victory was another sterling effort from the pack. Faced with a physically big Richmond eight, they nevertheless established a clear edge at the scrum which proved to be hugely influential in the final result.
In addition, they regularly put pressure on the Richmond line-out and were effective in the loose; it was not until the closing minutes that the hosts were able to get their pack rumbling forward with any momentum.
Hartpury’s defence was solid across the park and some aggressive tackling regularly chopped down Richmond runners. If one wanted to be critical, it would be nice to see more composure in ‘closing out’ games from a winning position, but overall Hartpury were excellent value for the result.
Callum Braley, a former Hartpury student and England U20 captain, currently developing his game at Kingsholm, was a welcome inclusion at scrum half. His link play ensured that Hartpury had plenty of opportunity to spread the ball wide – wingers Reynolds and Carter (pictured) both saw lots of action.
Richmond, fielding a similar side to that which had demolished Hartpury previously, were equally committed to width but made little impression on the Hartpury midfield.
They did open the scoring very early when Hartpury infringed and the generally excellent Rob Kirby slotted the first of his four successful kicks.
But they failed to deal with the re-start – a condition that affected both sides throughout the match – and the ball ran loose. Livewire visiting flanker Dan Thomas was first there and his pass allowed fellow back row man Lewis Ludlow to charge to the line from 30 yards out.
Another Kirby penalty nudged Richmond back ahead after 15 minutes, but the rest of the half belonged to Hartpury as they started to dominate possession. Richmond were also defending resolutely, but forward pressure was beginning to tell and two well-struck penalties from Mitch Burton had Hartpury 11-6 ahead at the break.
The second half started even better for the visitors.
Good work looked to have put Steph Reynolds clear but a foot in touch denied him the chance of a try. The resulting line-out was not well cleared by Richmond, giving Hartpury the opportunity to run the ball back. The line was broken by the elusive McConnochie and his pass gave Carter a simple finish.
Minutes later Thomas was adjudged to have deliberately knocked on and was yellow-carded, Kirby again landing the kick for the home side.
Hartpury’s response was to attack and they won a penalty deep in Richmond territory. With Carter drafted in as an emergency flanker, they elected to scrum and drove towards the try-line. A pushover looked certain, but Richmond instead collapsed on their own line, leaving referee Sullivan with no option other than to award a penalty try. Burton’s excellent conversion from wide gave Hartpury a 23-9 lead.
Into the final quarter and Richmond finally started to get their forwards moving. With Thomas still off, replacement prop Cunnew burrowed over from close range. Another yellow followed for Ludlow 10 minutes later and Richmond again took advantage though lock Will Warden to make it 21-23.
The closing minutes were frantic. In the end it was again the Hartpury forwards who made the difference, drawing the penalty for replacement Gareth Thompson to slot from a good position. The relief at the end was palpable, but in truth this was a fully deserved victory.
Next week Hartpury are at home to strugglers Macclesfield, kick off 2.30pm at the College. No doubt the coaches will be working hard to ensure that their young charges take nothing for granted as they seek to extend the winning streak to five matches.
Hartpury RFC would like to thank Richmond for their hospitality and wish them well for the remainder of the season.
Richmond: R Kirby, W Browne, M Keville, R Damant, M Freeman, C Surman, J Gibbs; T Walford, S Edwards, A Okeshola, C Osazuwa, W Warden, T Shaw, R Halsall, C Davies
Bench: Rudland-Thomas, J Cunnew, T Sargeant, J Burns, M Ward
Hartpury: R McConnochie, J Carter, Griffiths, Jackson, Reynolds, Burton, Braley; Merrey, Fortey, Thompson, Voss, Fuller, MacDonald, Thomas, Ludlow.
Bench: Tanner, Brockett, Stratford, Thompson, Protheroe
Richmond Tries Cunnew 60, Warden 71
Con Kirby 61
Pens Kirby 2, 15, 51
Hartpury College Tries Ludlow 4, Carter 42, Penalty 54
Con Burton 55
Pens Burton 25, 29; Thompson 76
Referee: J Sullivan