Rugby union: Blackheath lose 22-13 at Richmond

A big crowd, a significant anniversary, and a fine gesture by Richmond FC to mark International Women’s Day by offering free entry to this National League One match to all women attendees.  Sadly though, Friday night’s game was one that failed to live up to the occasion.

Neither Richmond nor Blackheath will look back at this match, celebrating 160 years since these two sides played what is recognised as the first game of rugby union on Richmond Green, with any fondness.

Numerous errors restricted any flow to a contest that never caught fire, but it was Richmond who made the fewer, and for that reason the Surrey team emerged worthy winners.

Despite losing ground by kicking out on the full, Richmond opened up the Blackheath defence as early as the third minute as outside-centre Paddy Case sent former Club wing Hamish Graham across for the first try.

Tom Ffitch clawed back three points for the visitors, and in probably Blackheath’s best moment Jake Hennessey made a strong break from full-back, and with Jack Daly ensuring quick ball, Jake Lloyd came off his wing to score beneath the uprights.

Richmond responded by opting for a scrum as Blackheath came in at the side close to the posts at the other end, scrum-half Luc Jones tunnelling under the Club defence and stretching out for a converted score, but Ffitch’s second penalty, as the hosts came up off-side, completed a tight first period with the visitors leading 13-12.

However, Blackheath were a shadow of the side which had marched through February with three successive wins, and the concession of soft penalties and turned possession was added to by a crumbling lineout.

A wayward throw, an infringement, and a fumble into touch resulted in the decisive 54th-minute try, as Richmond’s evergreen number eight Mark Bright grounded following close-range lineout, fly-half Lewis Dennett adding a decent conversion.

Despite trying to inject some impetus by emptying the bench, only once did Blackheath threaten in the remaining minutes.  However, the well-drilled Richmond defence held up the maul to win the put-in, and the game finished as it had started, with the visitors penalised for a high tackle, this one allowing Dennett to see out time with a final strike at goal, and denying Blackheath a losing bonus point.

Blackheath host Birmingham Moseley on Saturday. Kick-off at The Utilita is at 3.00 pm.

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