3:50pm Thursday 27th December 2012
Richmond director of rugby Steve Hill will enjoy his Christmas break after watching his team beat a top five side for the second week in succession on Saturday.
Old Albanians came to the Athletic Ground having won seven of their past eioght games, but Hill's men put that formidable record to one side to secure a 24-5 triumph thanks to tries from JP Attlee, Harison Edwards, Chris Davies and Jason Phipps.
"I was really proud of how our players adapted to both the weather conditions and uncontested scrums," said Hill.
"To lose our obvious scrum advantage could have seriously derailed our game plan, but I thought we adjusted really well.
"The Richmond pack had an awesome game and it is hugely satisfying to see the opposition driven back as often as we saw this afternoon.
"Fly half Louis Grimoldby marshalled the troops extremely well and the whole club will have a smile on its face this Christmas."
Most encounters between these sides result in high scores and this game started in familiar fashion.
OAs attempted to run back the kick off ball but James Shanahan’s pass to his backline went behind the centres and required a brave fall by full back Richard Gregg as the home side chased possession.
From the set scrum, the Richmond pack heaved forward and, at the second attempt, number eight JP Attlee picked up well to ground the ball in the corner for a 5-0 lead.
With Richmond demonstrating the power of their pack, the Albanians now showcased their sleight of hand.
Fly half Shanahan made full amends for his earlier error with a neat inside ball to hooker Brett McNamee who burst a tackle and powered through a hole in the home defence for a levelling try.
The respective strengths of the teams were now evident as the home forwards used their muscle to good effect and the OAs countered at speed off any loose ball.
Richmond were indebted to a wonderfully timed cover tackle by skipper Will Warden as Terry Adams chipped for the corner and appeared certain to score.
Nevertheless the home scrum looked so dominant that confidence steadily built.
However, after sixteen minutes, everything changed most unfortunately when the visitors lost their second prop to injury and were unable to field a replacement front row forward.
The referee therefore called for uncontested scrums which negated Richmond’s strength and left the visitors a man short, current rules not allowing a further substitute in these circumstances.
The remainder of the first half is best forgotten as both sides struggled to cope with very different circumstances and deteriorating weather conditions.
Neither side could build effective forward momentum and understandably the handling was prone to regular error.
Captain and coach worked together well at half time because Richmond came out for the second half with new purpose and direction and soon seized emphatic control of the match.
Early on, the Richmond pack used a rolling maul to drive forward some thirty metres and the Albanians looked bereft of a counter plan.
When the maul was illegally stopped, the visitors lost one of their locks to a yellow card and the pressure intensified.
One home move failed with a misdirected long pass but the relief was temporary and after good work by Jason Phipps and JP Attlee, impressive substitute Harison Edwards stretched out for his seventh try of the season.
Richmond now looked in increasing control with the pack working together to great effect and clever kicking by man of the match Louis Grimoldby working the touchline or probing wide space in the visitors’ defence.
The Albanian side were not helped by a sequence of injuries but they looked out of sorts in the heavy rain.
Lock Chris Davies added a third try after twenty-one minutes from another powerful rolling maul and the home side had their bonus point secured before the half hour.
Good work by Steve Wood and blindside flanker Edwards set up the initial attack for the bonus point try, Grimoldby using the ball well to kick into the 22.
Stealing the line out, Richmond turned the screw and eventually another pick and drive found the rumbustious Phipps driving over for his seventh try of the season.
Full back Tom Platt, steady and reliable throughout, converted the last two tries in difficult kicking conditions.
The Albanian side had one more trademark period of play when they retained possession well and probed the home defence through a long sequence of phases and angles of attack.
However the Richmond defence was giving away nothing on the day and the tackling was determined and decisive, one by Robbie Shaw saving a certain try.
And so Richmond finished the second half, and the first half of the season, in confident mood, having played some excellent rugby in the last two weeks and now in eighth position in a very competitive and well contested league.
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