All that glitters is not gold

Richmond 20 Newcastle 20
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The Independent Online
Ashley Levett was in no mood to talk politics. The millionaire entrepreneur behind The Richmond Experience - a 21st century rugby package complete with background music courtesy of Richard Strauss, Oasis and, er, Gary Glitter - decided that after endless weeks of muddle-headed committee room posturing, it was time to concentrate on the game. As is usual at the Athletic Ground, he got his way.

But while things went swimmingly for Levett off the pitch - a 6,000 capacity crowd, a huge hospitality tent bulging at its canvas seams and barely a mention of Cliff Brittle or Epruc - events on it did not quite go to plan. When you are used to controlling the world around you, it must be pretty exasperating when people such as Gary Armstrong start disrupting your life.

Armstrong scored a try in the last minute to bring the scores level and deprive Richmond of a league point that could well cost them dear, in every sense of the word, at the end of the season. The only saving grace for Levett was that Sir John Hall, his equally well-heeled counterpart at Newcastle, was not sitting alongside him with a smile as wide as a Cheshire cat's. That would have been too much for any proud wheeler-dealer to stomach.

Newcastle, more settled and familiar than their southern rivals, remain favourites for the one promotion spot on offer, and if, as speculation suggests, they make the brilliant French centre Thomas Castaignede an offer he finds difficult to refuse, they will further distance themselves from the League Two rank and file.

For all that, Levett may just have bought more for his money than Sir John. Richmond were under the hammer up front in the early stages and their line-out was a shambles from start to finish, but once Ben Clarke realised that the best way to lead his side was to forget about captaincy and start playing instead, the Londoners were able to draw from an impressively deep reservoir of desire. Sometimes, even mercenaries can be persuaded to put their bodies on the line for others.

Steve Cottrell and Allan Bateman tackled so hard in midfield that Rob Andrew was forced deeper and deeper into the Newcastle pocket, and at the sharp end Craig Quinnell was feisty enough to give Garath Archer all the problems he could handle. Behind him, brother Scott and Clarke grew more dominant and the scent of blood grew stronger in their nostrils.

The only visitor Richmond failed to come to terms with was Tony Underwood, as sharp as you like on Newcastle's left wing. He chased a speculative kick ahead by Armstrong at such burning pace that Bateman and Adrian Davies were blown to the four winds. At 13-3, Newcastle looked home and dry.

Enter referee Steve Lander, whose penchant for penalty tries grows more fanatical by the day. This time he awarded one against Newcastle, with Scott Quinnell still in the middle of the 22. "Sure, he warned us, but how was Scott going to score from 12 metres out?" asked Andrew with some justification.

Lander's intervention gave Richmond rather more than a leg up. They hit the lead with 15 minutes of the restart, Scott Quinnell muscling over following a big run from Clarke, and when Davies added a smart drop goal four minutes from time, Levett became seriously animated in the front row of the stand. He was soon still again. Bateman's loose touch finder allowed Andrew and Underwood to unlock the door for Armstrong's late equaliser and Levett was left to ponder the problems of leaving important matters in the hands of mere employees.

Richmond: Try S Quinnell; Penalty try; Conversions Mason 2; Penalty Mason; Drop goal Davies. Newcastle: Tries Underwood, Armstrong; Conversions Andrew 2; Penalties Andrew 2.

Richmond: S Mason; J Fallon, A Bateman, S Cottrell, M Hutton; A Davies, A Moore; D McFarland, B Moore, D Crompton, C Quinnell, R West, B Clarke (capt), S Quinnell, A Vander.

Newcastle: T Stimpson; J Bentley, A Blyth, G Childs, T Underwood; R Andrew, G Armstrong; N Popplewell, R Nesdale, G Graham, G Archer, D Weir, S O'Neill, D Ryan (capt), R Arnold.

Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).

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