Richmond fall short in Cornwall and let top spot slip
breakaway try in the last minutes of the game edging a win for a determined Launceston team, cheered to victory by a noisy home crowd.
Richmond worked very hard to get control of the match after a slow start and will be frustrated that they could not turn possession and territory into enough points to earn a tough victory.
In the end Launceston’s knowledge and use of the local conditions probably just edged them the victory in an agonisingly close finish.
The Cornish All Blacks laid down an early marker when Richmond had a five metre line out.
When the familiar drive was set up by the big Richmond pack, Launceston staunchly held their ground and then turned over possession.
The crowd roared their approval and, after just four minutes had the first try of the game to celebrate.
A well judged long kick to the corner allowed winger Richard Bright to beat the cover and get the touch down in the corner.
Richmond looked organised and determined as they worked their way through several phases to get back into the home 22.
But the first of too many first half penalties cost them impetus and the Cornish hosts shook the visitors with their power and aggression at the breakdown. In the twentieth minute, Kieron Lewitt extended his side’s lead when Richmond were unusually penalised for collapsing the scrum.
With scrum half Lewis Webb using the shelter of the stand to pepper the touchline with some well directed kicking, Richmond were not allowed to establish territorial pressure.
The visitors’ momentum was not helped around the half hour when James Greenwood was vigorously tackled on the hard ground and took several minutes to get back on his feet.
Nevertheless, the visiting forwards worked hard to get back into the game and gradually superiority at the tight scrum and line out started to bear fruit.
When Will Browne was tackled after a trademark bullocking run, the home side were penalised for not rolling away and Richmond were able to set up a line out deep in the 22.
This time, the drive worked rather more effectively and Harison Edwards was inches short before Launceston were penalised again.
Opting for a scrum, the Richmond pack drove forward and the Launceston No8 Mike Rawlings was binned for handling the ball in the scrum.
It must have been perilously close to a penalty try, but it was not given and when the energetic Jason Phipps was again held inches short, the home side were given the relief of a penalty for not releasing. At half time the CABs were still 8-0 ahead.
Richmond wanted an early second half try to restore confidence and it came after three minutes.
With Tom Chesters briefed to come on at the next breakdown to replace Greenwood, the Richmond winger got the ball on the half way line and found the speed to beat his man on the outside, staying on his feet with great strength as the home defence covered across.
This allowed the support to recycle the ball quickly and with Tom Platt contributing powerfully, Browne got the touchdown at the bottom of a sea of bodies on the right touchline.
Greenwood then retired after an important contribution.
Five minutes later, Platt levelled the scores, Launceston being penalised for hands in the ruck as a Richmond drive made more good ground.
The visitors were now the dominant side, moving the ball through the hands at much greater speed and troubling their opponents with the power of the pack. Nevertheless the CABs’ tackling remained ferocious though they were given a lengthy warning by referee Richard Phillips when things became over physical.
Half way through the second half, a Platt penalty slid frustratingly wide in the strong wind.
Chesters and Gregory both made good breaks but Launceston clung determinedly on.
The first key moment came when Richmond strangely lost a ball against the head but immediately drove their opponents backwards at pace.
However the ball ricocheted loose and, not for the first time, the CABs used the wind to kick deep into the visitors’ 22.
From the following play Richmond went offside and Lewitt put his side back in the lead.
Nevertheless all the play was now centred around the home 22.
Another Platt penalty brought the scores level and Richmond pressed hard for the winning try.
And then, with five minutes to go, disaster struck.
A Richmond attack broke down, the ball going loose and in a flash the CABs had a big overlap on the left.
The ball was quickly passed wide to the speeding Aaron Struminski and the winger had the pace to beat the cover to the corner. Crucially Lewitt added the tricky conversion.
To Richmond’s immense credit, they immediately fought back and resumed camp in the opposition 22.
Again Launceston were penalised in desperate defence and Robin Sullivan scored his first club try with a quick thinking tap and go.
However the robust Cornish defence had done enough by forcing the try out wide.
The conversion from the touchline was straight into the powerful wind and well though Platt judged the direction, it dropped a foot short of the posts.
And so the Cornish supporters could celebrate a famous victory.
The loss allows the Albanians to claim a single point lead in the league, with four games to go. But it is not easy holding on to the top spot and their last game of the season is away to…Launceston.