Richmond bounced back from three successive defeats to produce a gutsy 23-14 victory over Cambridge.

In a game of contrasting halves, Richmond overcame the most frustrating of starts to run out clear winners and end the game in close pursuit of a bonus point.

With Rosslyn Park claiming a five point home win, Richmond now share top slot, with Rams a point behind. Of the chasing pack, Blackheath and Cinderford both suffered defeats.

Richmond had four changes to their side, Rob Kirby and Ross Grimstone joining a long injury list. It was a cold, blustery day at Cambridge and Richmond started with the best of the conditions, their opponents facing a bright sun and cross-field wind. However, it was Cambridge who got off to the better start, helped by a yellow card to Jeremy Cunnew for a dangerous tackle. After seven minutes, they opened the scoring, a penalty on half-way set up position before Kiwi centre Matt Hema cut through the defence for an excellent solo try, converted by Ben Penfold.

Five minutes later, things got worse for Richmond when Byron Hodge was carded for a high tackle on a player who clearly ducked into the collision. With four penalties conceded in the opening twelve minutes, Richmond had very little ball but when they finally did get possession Morgan Ward made a good break. However, from a 22, Cambridge played some good rugby to get close to the Richmond 22. With the defence up fast, ex Nottingham fly-half Laurence Rayner chipped delightfully off his right foot to find Andy Henderson in space for a well worked second try, converted again by Penfold.

It looked a long way back for a Richmond side perhaps short of confidence after a run of defeats. However, Richmond now showed glimmers of their ability, the first scrum after twenty minutes resulting in a hefty shove. Soon afterwards Tom Hodgson used a penalty to good effect to establish a lineout eight metres out. The forwards set up a promising position but a Cambridge body lay across the ball to kill the move. Richmond maintained the pressure and, after 29 minutes, settled for a shot at goal, well kicked by Hodgson.

However, Richmond now got themselves back into trouble, Lewis Dennett losing the ball after a good take. Cambridge swiftly moved the ball out to Henderson, once seen in Rosslyn Park colours, and the winger chipped ahead. Cameron Mitchell appeared to stand still but the officials were persuaded that it should earn a third yellow card for obstruction. Cambridge’s Matt Dawson, who made a late tackle, soon joined him in the sin bin. After 40 minutes, there was a nine minute break as Cambridge prop David Langley was carefully stretchered off. Richmond raised their game in the remaining three minutes, to set up deep in the home 22. Frustrated by a hand on the ground denying possession, Jake Parker used his boot to try to free the ball and was yellow carded along with Cambridge’s Rob Conquest. With the penalty reversed, so ended an utterly frustrating first half.

Richmond looked a different team in the second half. Louis Lynagh, who had seen very little ball on the left wing, was moved to fullback, Toby Dabell replacing him on the wing. A penalty early in the half was well converted by Hodgson, kicking into a stiff breeze. With the advantage of the extra man, Richmond now won a succession of penalties, allowing them to mount pressure. Lynagh was a constant instigator from fullback and the hard working Dan Kelly got close before the forwards pummeled the line. Finally the ball was moved out to the right and Ward did well to take the high pass, cut in and score. Hodgson provided further cheer with a good conversion.

Richmond were in full control in the scrums, Cunnew and Jimmy Litchfield playing all 80 minutes whilst both hookers contributed well. At the lineouts Chris Allman ensured good possession, Byron Hodge supporting well. Cunnew provided the key break for the next try, bullocking through tackles on half-way to make the initial breech. The Richmond handling was now excellent and finally the ball was moved out to the wide right where Ward was able to take the scoring pass to give his side a 14-18 lead.

With Jamie Gibbs and Tom Hodgson working well together and Lynagh providing the extra thrust, Richmond now looked restored to full confidence. The aggressive defensive line denied Cambridge any momentum. After 75 minutes, Richmond scored their third try to set up a clear lead. Lynagh took a quick tap penalty and Dabell was left to scorch clear down the wing from twenty metres. At the end Penfold tried an over ambitious kick to earn his side a losing bonus point and, when the ball fell well short, Richmond mounted one last attack. With a lineout just inside the opposition 22, the forwards had a chance to set up another drive. However, when the maul collapsed, referee Calum Howard adjudged in Cambridge’s favour and Richmond had to settle for four points after a fine second half display.

Richmond’s Director of Rugby Steve Hill said post-match: “I am really proud of how the boys stayed in contention in a very trying first half but then showed their true ability in the second forty minutes. Our dominant scrum proved essential to the win whilst the backs finished some cracking tries.”

Meanwhile, the Richmond Vikings claimed yet another victory to maintain their unbeaten start to the season, downing the Cambridge 2nd XV 36-35

Richmond’s next fixture is against Birmingham Moseley at the Athletic Ground this Saturday 14th December (KO 3pm). Tickets available via or at the gate.