Rugby Union: Brown strengthens his cause

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The Independent Online
London Irish 29 Richmond 33

IF GRAHAM HENRY had travelled to Sunbury to check on his latest honorary Welshman, the London Irish prop Peter Rogers, then he could have been back on the M4 by half-time after a knee injury forced off the powerful South African inside the opening quarter. Fortunately, Richmond fielded enough of their Welsh contingent to give the national coach cause to linger amid a boisterous crowd that saw the visitors win a rousing match in a pulsating finale.

Henry might have raised a glass to the evergreen, ever dependable Allan Bateman in the midst of a resolute Richmond backline, and he might well have raised an eyebrow at a mercurial performance from Scott Quinnell on the back of the scrum. He may also be raising his telephone receiver to take a call from his English counterpart, Clive Woodward this week, investigating rumours of the discovery of a promising full-back unexpectedly emerging in the Richmond ranks.

Their coach, John Kingston, rates Spencer Brown as the best wing in the country but revealed that the England chief has asked him to field the 25-year-old in other positions to round off his rugby education.

After Matt Pini was hospitalised early on by a surprise sandbagging from Simon Berridge, Woodward got his wish. Brown switched to full-back, scored two fine tries and displayed an impressive sense of position and timing throughout, particularly for someone who had played in the role just once before. As the Irish coach, Dick Best, said afterwards: "They might have unearthed a full-back there."

Richmond had to dig deep for their victory over an Irish side unrecognisable from the strugglers of a year ago. Scott Quinnell was prominent early on, but foolishly squandered the advantage of Brown's opening try by being sin-binned for punching. In his absence, Niall Woods' boot and Malcolm O'Kelly's power gave Irish the lead. On his return, Quinnell gifted Woods another three points by handling in a ruck.

Thankfully for Richmond, he soon made amends, touching down for a try and battering a hole in the Exiles' defence that allowed Earl Va'a to score. Robert Todd regained the hosts' lead in injury-time before Brown swooped in the corner.

Irish fumed at the decision that turned over possession in the lead-up to that winner but, mindful of the ban on commenting on referees' performances, Best praised the RFU's decision to appoint full-time officials. "It can't come quickly enough," was his verdict. Nor, for Spencer Brown, can England's programme of autumn internationals.

London Irish: Tries O'Kelly, Todd; Conversions: Woods 2; Penalties Woods 5.

Richmond: Tries S Brown 2, S Quinnell, Va'a; Conversions Va'a 2; Penalties Davies, Pini, Va'a.

London Irish: O'Shea; Berridge (Burrows, 76), Todd, Venter, Woods; J Brown, Campbell; Rogers (Worsley, 14), Kirke (Howe, 58), Hardwick (Fullman, 58), Harvey, O'Kelly, Spicer, Gallacher, Dawson.

Richmond: Pini (Deane, 21); Walne, Bateman, Dixon, S Brown; Davies (Va'a, 13), Pichot; McFarland, Williams, Crompton, C Quinnell, Gillies, Hutton, S Quinnell, Vander.

Referee: R Goodliffe (Sheffield).

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