Rugby Union: Centre right on target

Richmond 40 London Scottish 22

A TRY either side of half-time by the peerless Allan Bateman lent some much-needed focus to an occasionally frantic Richmond and a final try count of 6-1 accurately reflected their dominance of this derby with a difference.

If it seems odd for these two tenants of the Athletic Ground in Richmond to decamp to Reading for the day, only to play in front of fewer than 3,500 spectators, then how about the prospect of Wales kicking off their Five Nations' Championship in Scotland in a fortnight without Bateman?

Mark Taylor is the incumbent at outside centre, Bateman having missed the autumn internationals against South Africa and Argentina through injury. It is to make such tricky decisions as whether to change a winning side that the Wales coach Graham Henry is earning his not inconsiderable corn. Surely the sheer instinctiveness with which Bateman sparkled yesterday is too valuable to leave on the bench.

The relative paucity of the attendance, the lowest so far for a Premiership match at the Madejski Stadium, presumably meant Richmond's following is nearing the hard core. The faithful would have recognised all the frailty which threatened for a while to undermine their obvious superiority over a one-dimensional Scottish.

For their part, the Exiles players were brought up to date with the state of play off the field by the London Scottish president Ken Scobie. There is clearly little love lost between Scobie and Tony Tiarks, the 38 per cent shareholder who has courted interest from Bristol recently.

Tiarks told Scobie shortly before kick-off that some paper-work had been drafted, but the latter insisted this was "an insurance policy rather than a deal". Scobie also reiterated that nothing which affected matters on the pitch would happen before the end of the season.

Richmond's priority is to heave themselves further up the table. The fine example set by their workaholic captain Ben Clarke was occasionally dented by spilt passes. On one such occasion Nick Walne cut in beautifully from the wing only to lose the ball in the tackle when he looked certain to add to his try after only 70 seconds.

The unerring boot of the Exiles' South African outside-half Jannie de Beer was beginning to sow seeds of doubt in Richmond, after three penalties and a dropped goal.

Cue Bateman, who right on half-time ghosted onto the shoulder of Earl Va'a for a try.

Even better was the one 15 minutes into the second half. Craig Gillies won a line-out, Craig Quinnell frightened the life out of Scottish at the second phase and Richmond went left where a deft chip by Va'a was followed up by Bateman.

Scottish's tackles lost their vigour and Richmond ploughed through for tries by Quinnell, Adam Vander and Robbie Hutton to sew it up.

Richmond: M Pini; N Walne, A Bateman, M Deane, S Brown; E Va'a (L Best, 74), A Pichot; D McFarlane, B Williams, J Davies (D Crompton, 67), C Quinnell (B Cusack, 73), C Gillies, R Hutton, A Vander, B Clarke (capt, L Cabannes, 67).

London Scottish: I McAusland; K Milligan, D Lee, R Eriksson (R Davies, 80), C Sharman; J de Beer (S Forrest, 80), G Easterby; P Johnstone (M McDonald, 71), D Rudham (D Cummins, 48), P Burnell, E Jones, M Watson (M McAtamney, 75), S Fenn, S Holmes (capt), R Hunter.

Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).

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