Rugby Union: Hutton is the villain

Gloucester 24 Richmond 24
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GLOUCESTER and Richmond are the two most enigmatic teams in the Premiership, so it would have been no surprise if they had staged an enigma of a match at Kings-holm yesterday, in the aftermath of Sky TV's eccentric decision to fix the kick-off for 4.30 which had a negative effect in limiting the attendance to 4,811.

The home supporters, already disenchanted by high ticket prices, could have been forgiven for staying away in even greater numbers. Even so the Shed was in full voice at a time when the inhabitants of the noisiest terrace in the English game have usually got other things than rugby on their minds, once darkness has fallen on a Saturday night.

Not that they would had much cause to celebrate after they almost allowed Richmond to steal the points, despite the late sending-off of blindside flanker Robbie Hutton for stamping. For both Gloucester and Richmond have promised much more than they have delivered this season.

Richmond can partly explain their lowly position in the table by having at least two games in hand over those above them. But by doing so, they risk being accused of failing to acknowledge that their challenge for the title has been fatally undermined by a lack of consistency. Though equally, this could be said of Gloucester. It has been no help to Richmond either, that their influential No 8, Scott Quinnell, decided on a return to Llanelli.

It took some while for the match to come alive, though when it did it was well worth waiting for. Earl Va'a and Mark Mapletoft had each kicked two penalties, before Richmond at last gained a decent toe-hold in home territory. Somehow Gloucester kept their line from being breached, though from the resulting scrum, the ball squirted out for Ben Clarke to claim the opening try.

Gloucester pinched one back from a five-metre scrum, while Dan McFarland was in the sin-bin. But it counted, as did Mapletoft's third penalty, so the teams turned round with Gloucester ahead 14-13. From then on we witnessed a contest which lacked nothing in commitment from either side, but being short in terms of quality.

Spencer Brown was gifted a soft try, when Brian Johnson's limp tackle allowed him to make the corner. Gloucester then put so much presssure on the Richmond pack that they gained a penalty try. By converting that score, Mapletoft restored the lead to Gloucester. But Va'a swung the pendulum back Richmond's way with two more penalties, before Mapletoft had the final legitimate word with his fifth successful shot at goal, and Hutton fell foul of the law with his foolishness.

Gloucester: C Catling (S Mannix, 68); B Johnson, T Fanolua, R Tombs, P Saint-Andre; M Mapletoft, S Benton; T Woodman, N McCarthy (C. Fortey, 68), A Deacon, R Fidler (capt, D Sims h-t), M Cornwell, E Pearce (A Hazell 68), N Carter, S Ojomoh.

Richmond: M Pini; N Waine, A Bateman, M Deane, S Brown; E Va'a, A Pichot; D McFarland, B Williams, J Davies, C Quinnell, C Gillies, R Hutton, A Vander, B Clarke (capt).

Referee: N Yates (Bowdon, Cheshire).