Richmond suffered its second straight defeat, falling to an 8-7 loss away against Sale FC.

Constant small errors and an adverse penalty count cost them dear against a gritty, experienced Sale side. The one point gained leaves them joint top of the table with Rosslyn Park, whilst Sale climb to ninth.

Richmond made four changes from the starting XV, who narrowly lost to Rosslyn Park the previous week. The absence of Jamie Gibbs and Louis Lynagh meant yet more change in the backs. The forwards looked more familiar, the only change being the return of Jeremy Cunnew, in the absence of David Banfield and Timmy Walford.

Richmond kicked off and secured a promising position 25 metres out after a Rob Kirby grubber found touch off a Sale player. However, lineout possession was not secured and the moment was lost. Five minutes later, two successive penalties allowed Sale the chance to set up in the Richmond 22 before their lineout similarly malfunctioned.

The Richmond defence looked solid though, Jeremy To’a in the centre twice made good ground. However, the hosts were much better at retaining the ball with Jarad Williams and Juan Pablo Rivas often to the fore. As a result Richmond were forced to play most of the first quarter in their own half. The scrums were untidy throughout the game, both packs often skewing round to disrupt possession.

In the fifteenth minute Sale made an attack down the left wing but a Toby Eaton tackle and knock on appeared to have closed out the danger. However, the scrum duly wheeled and Richmond were adjudged to have knocked on, giving Sale the put in. The home forwards patiently built a number of phases just under the posts before the ball was moved to the wide right. Richmond’s defence looked out of line and To’a was able to touch down in the corner with relative ease.

The lead lasted ten minutes before the best try of the game. Once again, the scrum was disrupted but this time it worked in Richmond’s favour. Toby Saysell picked up loose ball just inside his own half and found vacant space on the right. In a flash Saysell accelerated round a Sale defender and outpaced the cover until he reached the 22. Eaton had done well to stay in support so, when Saysell was finally caught, the flanker was able to throw a well-judged pass and Eaton had a clear run to the line. The score was touched down ten metres in and Kirby added a good conversion.

Having taken the lead, Richmond immediately looked more confident. Gaining some possession around half-way, Richmond opened up and created some half chances. However loose passes and dropped ball stalled progress. Near half-time the Richmond pack gained a scrum penalty but frustratingly Sale turned over possession as Richmond set up after securing the lineout ball.

With the ball regularly hoisted by both sides, the game at times became a simple kicking duel.

Generally defences were secure but, early in the second half, Sale dropped a steepler from Toby Dabell and then conceded a free kick at the scrum. Jesse Liston tapped and ran but seconds later Richmond were penalised for holding on. It was to prove costly as the experienced Chris Johnson kicked to the visitors’ ten metre line. Sale now exerted constant pressure and Richmond could not break out. Nevertheless the defence worked hard and appeared to be in control until a defender was pinged at the breakdown. The offence was in front of the posts and Johnson made no mistake.

With 30 minutes to go, Richmond had plenty of time to regain the lead. When they got in the Sale half, the attacks looked promising but, time and again, small mistakes stalled progress, whether handling errors, crooked lineout throws or unnecessary penalties conceded.

After 68 minutes, Richmond had a clear chance. Sale’s number 8 Williams was yellow carded for a horrible swinging arm tackle on Saysell and Richmond mounted some pressure from the resultant penalty. After playing advantage, referee Richard Haughton awarded a Richmond penalty in front of the posts. It looked a clear three points but on this occasion, Kirby, so often the match winner, drifted his kick wide.

It was really Richmond’s last chance as Sale raised their game, buoyed by their enthusiastic crowd. Johnson continued to pin Richmond back and they could not find a way out. At the end it was Sale who turned down another kick at goal to attempt to drive over from the lineout. Richmond held out but they did not look like escaping and Sale thoroughly deserved their win.

Meanwhile, the Richmond Normans, Jutes and Heavies all recorded impressive victories.