Richmond withstood a barrage of attacking possession by a determined Old Elthamians side to secure a gutsy 9-7 victory in horrendous conditions at College Meadow. 

The OE’s have suffered a tough time since Christmas and were not helped by the loss of hooker Jared Saunders, red carded for a tip tackle. 

However, with the conditions steadily deteriorating and denying any open play, they battered league leaders Richmond in the second half and could well have taken the points, had they been able to convert any one of three penalty chances. 

Defending most of the second half with a two point lead, Richmond in turn will take deserved pride in their staunch defensive efforts.

Storm Dennis arrived in good time for Richmond’s first league visit to College Meadow and relentlessly built in intensity. 

With the ground open to the elements, there was little protection for players or supporters. Richmond started with the wind and rain behind them and soon established territorial domination. After two minutes, they were awarded a penalty for offside on the OE’s ten metre line and pragmatically opted to take the kick at goal. Tom Hodgson judged the wind perfectly and made no mistake with a low kick.

Richmond looked confident in the early exchanges and in the tight, the forwards soon won a scrum penalty and Will Warden, at the front, secured the early line outs. However, the greasy ball and violent wind made handling a nightmare and resulted in constant mistakes for both sides. 

It was important to convert chances and Richmond looked well set when they opted for a scrum, when awarded a penalty five metres out. However, the Elthamian scrum got the shove and the immediate chance was lost, though only temporarily. The clearance kick was too high and stuck in the wind, denying any territorial escape. 

At the lineout, Warden was again the supplier and the pack quickly gathered round him to get a good forward drive. Referee Adam Wookey awarded a penalty and once again Hodgson kicked low and accurately to add three points to the lead after eighteen minutes.

With the game dominated by short passes and pick and drives, attacks were inevitable predictable and punctuated only by kicks, which were very tricky to judge. 

Richmond’s best chance followed a high kick, misjudged by the home defence, and Hodgson quickly grubbed the ball through to the corner with Toby Eaton in pursuit. The cover defence just beat him to the ball but now conceded two five metre scrums. Richmond kept it narrow and went through the phases but the defence held and they had to settle for another penalty, this time in front. The impeccable Hodgson again kicked the points.

The most dramatic moment of the game followed when Saunders, vigorously following up the kick-off ball, was adjudged to have completed a tip tackle and brandished with an immediate red card. Fortunately, no serious injury ensued. Fullback Joel Medcraft was the unfortunate player to be replaced. With the outside backs mostly trying to keep warm, OEs absorbed the change without great difficulty.  

There were no further scores in the first half and Richmond knew that defending a nine point lead against the worsening conditions was going to be no easy task. 

Both sides wanted the first score and the OE’s got it after just five minutes.

Richmond were penalised for not releasing and their opponents set up on the 22. All the lineouts were challenging in the wind but this time the ball was well secured, and the forwards drove. The first drive was held close to the line, but the reset was quick. With his pack latching on, impressive young prop Austin Hay was the scorer. Marc Koteczky adding the kick.

Richmond were really in a battle now and were not helped by the need to replace several of the forwards. A brand new front-row of Sam Grattan on debut), James Hadfield and Jimmy Litchfield were given a searching test, with the ground underfoot now a muddy mess. 

Cam Holenstein, once a Richmond player, had a point to prove and cut an imposing figure on the day. The conditions now made it increasingly difficult to kick at all into the wind whilst the Elthamians had the opposite problem, kicking the ball dead on two or three occasions.

Both defensive lines held and it always looked as if penalties would be crucial. 

Around the 65th minute, Koteczky had three successive penalty chances, all well within normal kicking range. However, conditions were not normal and each kick drifted wide. Richmond had one break out, started by Hadfield, almost certainly featuring the omnipresent Warden and nearly completed by Eaton in the corner. However, the ball was lost two metres out. 

At the end, Charlie Mulchrone was a steadying influence and the visiting pack had the final word, seeing out the last three minutes against very gallant opponents.

Director of Rugby Steve Hill said post-game: “These were the worst conditions Richmond have played in my ten years at the club. It was certainly not pretty yet somehow we found a way to win. Full marks to our kicker Tom Hodgson for an outstanding display given the appalling weather.” 

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