Rugby: Rich reward for visitors

Richmond 22 Gloucester 25
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The Independent Online
THEY DO not come much tougher, or much more action-packed than this. It was a tale of two records. Richmond trying to establish a home run (although not perhaps of Mark McGwire proportions) and Gloucester trying to rid themselves of the monkey that their away trips have become - 23 defeats in 31 away league matches.

And clearly Richmond have some spadework to do if they are to turn the Madejski Stadium into Fortress Reading. Its walls were scaled by Mark Mapletoft, who plundered 20 more points to go with the 24 he scored last week and Gloucester recorded only their eighth away win in that long, dismal run.

But there were some mad moments and some bad moments. The latter were mostly in the first half which was pretty poor fare. The former were throughout.

The sin bin was over-used. Gloucester had been warned midway through the first half about killing the ball. They either were not tuned in to referee Steve Lander's frequency or they weren't interested in what he had to say, either way they soon lost Steve Ojomoh after he undid all his good work with a shuddering tackle on Ben Clarke by ensuring the ball could not be released.

Richmond went two better after the interval: Craig Quinnell went into the cooler for illegal footwork; he was followed by Barry Williams after the hooker appeared to punch Andy Deacon. These two departures reduced Richmond to 13 men late on, yet they still scored a try through replacement hooker Andy Cuthbert.

There was no reason for Richmond to have lost. On the occasions that they did go forward early on they looked by far the more dangerous side, prodding and probing with telling thrusts from forwards and backs alike. But there was not enough cohesion, and Gloucester defended like demons. Deacon has really blossomed, and he pulled off one superb try-saving tackle on Spencer Brown as well as proving a handful in the loose.

But the set pieces were not a happy area for Deacon and Co. Richmond frequently opted for the scrum or kicked for touch when they were awarded penalties, and it was a shame that with all their talent outside there were so many basic handling errors. At least Gloucester's backs were able to retain the ball. Gloucester's wing Philippe Saint-Andre showed them how, though. He came into the line after a quarter of an hour and took the ball on, supported by his pack, and was driven over for a well deserved try.

Richmond were unlucky to lose their captain Ben Clarke with a bruised shoulder towards the end of the first half. Gloucester took advantage of his absence especially in the second half.

Richmond: M Pini: S Brown, A Bateman, M Deane, D Chapman; A Davies, A Pichot; D McFarland (J Davies, 47), B Williams, D Crompton, C Quinnell, C Gillies, R Hutton (A Cuthbert, 68), B Clarke (capt; L Cabannes, 28), A Vander.

Gloucester: C Catling; B Johnson (R Jewell, 51), R Tombs, S Mannix, P Saint-Andre; M Mapletoft, S Benton; T Woodman (A Windo, 58), N McCarthy (C Fortey, 58), A Deacon, R Fidler, D Sims (capt), S Ojomoh, S Devereux, N Carter.

Referee: S Lander (Liverpool)

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