Rugby Union: Lacroix on song in bid for Europe

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Richmond 23 Harlequins 30

IN THE old days this would have been a derby, but the move to Reading has wiped out that element and the only thing going for this game was the race to Europe in which Harlequins still feature. It did not grab the crowds, nor the Quins fans though. The glorious Bank Holiday weather failed to bring out the hordes and left only a handful of hard-core supporters to fill the concrete bowl of the Madejski Stadium.

Thierry Lacroix scored 20 of Harlequins' points in a match that fluctuated between dazzling and downright incompetent. Victory leaves Harlequins in fourth place in the Allied Dunbar Premiership and, more importantly, just one win away from a place in Europe, but they will have to play a lot better than this at Bath on Saturday.

Richmond were spirited and never gave up, probing and testing the opposition defences until the end. Unfortunately, they were unable to finish off Quins when they had them on the ropes even though they outscored them by four tries to three, and there could have been another two.

Craig Quinnell's touchdown was disallowed because of an obstruction, then Allan Bateman had a great opportunity. He could have passed to his left to the waiting Lee Best, instead he went over himself, but rather than touching down immediately he attempted to get closer to the posts and that gave the desperate Quins' defenders the time they needed to get between the ball and the ground and hold him up.

In the end defence was probably what won it for Quins. Richmond at times looked ragged and slow of thought when defending, in direct contrast to the sharpness with which they attacked.

However, for all the mistakes there were some fine moments, including Jason Keyter's decisive try for Quins, which was set up by a superb cut- out pass from Jamie Williams on the hour.

Richmond, too, gave the crowd something to cheer with two of their tries. Bateman's first was the culmination of some fine handling by the home backs before the Wales international centre went outside Keyter as if he were not there to put Richmond into the lead.

That was followed by the try which put them back into the lead at 18- 17 in first-half injury time. Richmond had worked the ball left through wing Nick Walne and when he was stopped they recycled right. Stand-off Earl Va'a thumped a crossfield kick which Bateman caught on the full before scorching over in the corner. Unfortunately they needed more than that to overcome the hungry Quins.

Richmond: Tries Bateman 2, Clarke, Walne; Penalty Va'a. Harlequins: Tries Lacroix, Morgan, Keyter; Conversions Lacroix 3; Penalties Lacroix 2; Drop goal Lacroix.

Richmond: M Pini (J Wright, 72); N Walne (J Wright 3-20), A Bateman, M Deane, L Best; E Va'a, A Moore; D McFarland, B Williams, D Crompton, C Quinnell, C Gillies (M Swift, 68), B Cusack, B Clarke (capt), A Vander.

Harlequins: J Williams; J Keyter, P Mensah (D Officer, 40-62), W Carling, D Luger; T Lacroix, N Walshe (C Wright, 74); J Leonard, T Murphy (capt; C Ridgway, 62), R Nebbitt (G Halpin, 62), G Llewellyn, G Morgan, R Jenkins, C Sheasby, A Leach.

Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).