Long journey ends in defeat by tightest of margins

By Tim Forrester

3rd Sep 2023 | Rugby

Sedgley Park 32, Richmond 31

Richmond had a challenging start to the season with a four hour trip to play Bury-based Sedgley Park ('The Tigers'). The Tigers gained promotion from National Two North with an impressive 24 wins out of 26 games and had drawn with Championship side Caldy the previous week in a pre season friendly.

The game proved to be just as tight as predicted. Richmond had the lead for most of the game, but the Tigers never gave up and went on to win with a penalty in the last action of the game. The high score and close result were replicated in just about every game in National One, which looks being fiercely contested. Richmond took away two points from the visit but will be frustrated that they did not hold on to leads of 0-14, 10-21 and 22-31.

With the weather gods providing early autumn sunshine, the game kicked off on a wide pitch with a dry surface. Richmond dominated the first half hour, seldom out of the Park half and stopping any counter attacks with some crunching defence. Toby Saysell was as ever to the fore.

Luc Jones was influential in early play with some steepling kicks which tested the home defence. Finally, after a long period of domination, Richmond opened the scoring in the sixteenth minute. A high tackle gave them the chance to set up in the 22 and Jake Monson provided the line out possession. The forwards mauled forward to the posts before Jones sniped closer. Finally, Mark Bright was at hand to force his way over to claim a captain's try for the first score of the league season. 

Richmond should have had a follow up score two minutes later when the impressive Will Kaye broke from the back right through the defence to find skipper Bright in good support. With back up looking to be in place on both sides, Richmond looked bound to score but the No 8 took the tackle rather than attempting the pass and the moment was lost. Nevertheless, with Richmond in control at the line out and getting the shove at rather scrappy scrums, another score seemed imminent and duly followed in the twenty-seventh minute.

This time Alex Post provided the initial break, forcing Park back to the corner. The forwards gained a scrum penalty and, from the line out, Jones threw a quick pass to Hamish Graham, who gathered and scored. Debut fly half Tom Smith added a superb conversion from the touchline.

At this stage, the game changed its script. Richmond conceded a penalty when their defensive line came up too quickly. Ex Darlington fly half Warren Seals kicked his side within twelve metres. From the line out, a Tigers forward bullocked his way forward to break a tackle and then found winger Rhys Henderson running a nice line back towards the posts. Seals converted, the score was 7-14 and Jones limped off.

Whilst the score undoubtedly lifted Sedgley Part, Richmond restored their lead five minutes later when the forwards built pressure from a penalty. With the opposition under a warning, the pack shoved hard at a five metre scrum and hooker Post got low to claim the touch down, again well converted by Smith.

The Tigers nearly had a second try in the final minute of the half but a fine tackle by Bright saved the moment. Instead Tigers had to settle for a penalty for a late hit, taking the half time score to 10-21.

If Richmond had any sense of complacency, it was removed in the first minute of the second half. Winger Henderson, who scored 23 league tries last season, was again the danger man, breaking a couple of tackles, and, when he was well tackled by Kaye five metres out, full back Andy Riley was well positioned to pick up and score. The sure-footed Seals added the conversion.

The Tigers were now unrecognisable from the first half and used the full width of the pitch to stretch the defence. Another touchdown in the corner was ruled out for a knock on, and the game was now end to end. Richmond built some half chances but couldn't get the final pass away to complete the break. 

In the 57th minute. Tigers took the lead. Richmond were penalised for not rolling away and conceded the try when the opposition drove from a short range line out, and substitute Danny Maher got the touchdown.

Richmond stayed patient and the forwards had a succession of short range line outs, leading to a yellow card for Sedgley Park's Bob Birtwell. From the third penalty, Vaughan Bentley forced his way over. Smith's conversion from in from was then charged down though, to the naked eye, the Tigers seemed to move early. However, when the Richmond forwards added a fifth try in the 70th minute through Ntinga Mpiko, the lead of nine points looked enough.

However, Dame Fortune had other plans. In the 77th minute, Danny Maher got a second try from a well worked rolling maul and Seals followed with a top notch conversion. Tigers now needed a penalty to win the day, and there were two minutes left. Sadly, Richmond conceded two penalties in that time, both seemingly from high tackles and the second penalty, their 15th of the game, was well within range. With the crowd silent, the experienced Seals never looked like missing, and the final whistle cruelly followed.

Tries: Bright, Graham, Post, Bentley, Mpiko

Conversions: Smith (3)

Team: W. Kaye, A. O'Meara, A.Coombes. T. Landray, H. Graham, T.Smith, L.Jones, C.Maguire, A.Post, J.Litchfield, C. Te Mete, J. Monson, D.Massey, T.Saysell, M.Bright.

Subs: N. Mpiko, V. Bentley, E. Benson, M.Marsh, M.Bliss.


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