The Evergreens lost out to Richmond in a close fought game on Saturday 6th March but at least restored some pride after losing the home fixture by a landslide. We were woefully understrength that day but a much improved side lined up at the Athletic ground this time round. Front row was Stef Glancy (welcome back mate) myself and Jimmy Noak. Michele Lozza and Paul Clarke in the second row and Jamie Carlin, Cameron Orr and Ben Davies rounded off a well balanced pack of forwards. Dave Brathwaite and Andy Cleary at half back. Centres were the trusty combination of Dave Steene and Ed Beck with Gavin and Eric Murray on the wings and Paul Hoban at full-back.
Our efforts at appearing a well-drilled outfit by warming up thoroughly were somewhat undermined by Paul Clarke’s obvious sufferings of the after effects of a surfeit of vino rosso but fair play, he put in a manful first half despite that. The Richmond Heavies were looking confident having secured a draw against the Army Vets the week before. Anyone who has played against the Army knows that’s no mean feat! However, they were shaken out of their complacency when Ealing opened the scoring after only five minutes. Good forward play saw Cameron win a lineout in the Richmond 22, quick ball out to the backs and Steeny powered through the centre to score a fine individual try which Andy Cleary converted. A few minutes later and Richmond were attacking down the blind side with men over but quick thinking and quicker hands saw Eric Murray intercepting the ball and sprinting away to put Ealing 12 – 0 up. Game on! Richmond were visibly shocked at this turn of events and decided to shut up shop for a little time while they figured things out.
They then decided that the best thing to do would be to revert to their old favourite, the rolling maul which they do so well. We then decided that it was so good we would rather stand back and admire it while they drove over for their opening score. Time and again Richmond would revert to the maul to suck in our defence and shut down the game. It yielded another two tries for them as well as the three scored by their strong running. They had some big ball carriers but the resolute defence Ealing displayed in recent games was not as efficient here and the big full-back boshed his way through a few flailing defenders. We knew we couldn’t afford to try and tackle these guys high but we did it anyway. And therein we lost the game.
It was a real opportunity lost because we matched the strong Richmond pack up front. The scrum held steady unlike the last time and Cameron was dominating the front of the lineout so we had plenty of set piece ball. In the second half, once we had gone three tries behind we threw caution to the wind and ran everything. We looked really dangerous at times and one such attacking move gave me a rare score! A break by Ben Davies who then passed to Ed Beck, Ed sweetly drew the full-back and passed to me to touch down for our final score. A few minutes later and it was Andy Cleary sprinting (yes, I know) through their defence and must have gone twenty yards when the shock hit him and he decided to pass inside but unfortunately it didn’t go to hand. Probably because we were all stunned at the sight of Andy in full flight! Subs used were Bill Miller who replaced Paul Clarke in the second row, and Adrian Hobbs who replaced the injured Paul Hoban (get well soon mate) . All played a full part in a hard, keenly contested game but Richmond are too good a side to be able to afford to miss tackles against them.
At least pride was restored but still we must be bitterly disappointed as opportunities to beat Richmond are not easy to come by. They fully deserved their win but were definitely beatable. Well done to Stef and Jimmy for strong scrummaging. Cameron was, typically, everywhere in his tackling and enjoying a right ding dong battle with their big lump of a second row in the lineout. We have an opportunity to get back on the horse next Saturday with a home fixture against London Welsh who present a different threat as they like to play like fifteen Phil Bennets so we will need to make those tackles next week.
Richmond Heavies – 36
Ealing Evergreens – 17
Tries: Steene, Murray, Cronin