Rugby Union: Ashton's appetite whetted by Chapman's finishing

London Irish 14 Richmond 45
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The Independent Online
Brian Ashton's trip East was not wasted. Having left his West Country home on Saturday morning the Ireland coach headed up to watch what turned out to be a ritual slaughter of London Irish by resurgent Richmond at Sunbury.

But while the Exiles had little to whet Ashton's appetite on the personnel front, the former Bath coach was delighted to witness the performance of Richmond's left wing Dominic Chapman, as lethal a finisher as there has ever been.

The slight, but phenomenally fast, Chapman scored two of Richmond's half- dozen tries to take his tally for the season to an impressive 20. Chapman, a bare 5ft 8in and 11st 12lb wringing wet, has to be the quickest wing in England, unfortunately he would appear to be in danger of slipping through Clive Woodward's net, by virtue of his paternal grandparents, Joseph (from Cork) and Elizabeth (from Co Wexford).

His performance certainly had Ashton beaming afterwards as he savoured the possibility of welcoming Chapman, the 21-year-old former England Colt, into the Ireland fold. "We've known about him for some time," said Ashton, "he is impressive. I just want to let him know I was here to watch him."

The speed and balanced running Chapman displayed promise much for Ireland, although as Richmond's director of rugby, John Kingston admitted, he is far from the finished article as yet. "He has tremendous quality going forward," explained Kingston, "but work has to be done on his defensive play. We need to address that side of his game."

But while one Irish search is over, another one is on. After this catchweight contest Willie Anderson, the London Irish director of rugby, admitted that he is in the market for some Irish beef to add weight to his mobile but lightweight pack.

Front five players with bags of BSE - bulk, speed and excellence of handling - will be the prerequisites, as Anderson attempts to steer his side clear of relegation. Anderson is also poised this week to take on lock Nick Harvey of ACT and Western Samoan flanker Isaac Fe'aunati, unfortunately the pair will not be registered in time for Saturday's Tetley's Bitter Cup tie against Rotherham, but if work permits are sorted out then they should be ready to play at Sale in the premiership the following week.

There was really very little the Exiles could do to prevent Richmond's heavyweight onslaught. It was like watching a wrecking ball laying waste to a listed building; London Irish deserve a preservation order being slapped on them which would indemnify them from relegation, they are too valuable a part of the game's heritage, but they need an injection of something to counter this sort of unstoppable opposition.

After three defeats Richmond are ready to get back with the big boys and compete for a place in Europe (if the clubs sort out their differences with the Heineken Cup organisers in time for next season). But for a spirited Irish side, now firmly rooted to the bottom of the Allied Dunbar Premiership One, relegation looks more certain by the day.

London Irish: Try Woods; Penalties Woods 3.

Richmond: Tries Chapman 2, Bateman, S Quinnell, Moore, Va'a; Conversions A Davies 3; Penalties A Davies 3 .

London Irish: C O'Shea (capt); J Bishop, S Burns, M McCall, N Woods; D Humphreys, N Hogan; L Mooney (J Fitzpatrick, 40), R Kellam, G Halpin, G Fulcher, M O'Kelly, K O'Connell, C Bird (K Dawson, 40), M Morahan (K Spicer, 62).

Richmond: M Pini (E Va'a, 63); J Fallon, A Bateman, S Cottrell, D Chapman; A Davie, A Moore; J Foster, B Williams, J Davies (D Crompton, 57), C Quinnell (A Codling, 70), C Gillies, R Martin, B Clarke (capt), S Quinnell (A Vander, 62).

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).

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