Rugby Union: Leaders hit by 14-man assault

Richmond 30 Newcastle 17
THIS is not a corner of the world you would normally associate with blood, sweat and tears but yesterday Richmond provided all three by the bucket-load to produce one of the defining displays of the season.

Against all the odds - odds stacked even higher by the first-half sending off of their Welsh international Scott Quinnell - Richmond stripped Newcastle of their 100 per cent League record with a truly inspirational performance.

Quinnell was dispatched in the 24th minute after putting a knee into the Newcastle prop Paul Van-Zandvliet. Richmond, who had lost nine of their 14 League games, had already laid down the gauntlet and when Quinnell departed were deservedly leading 14-0.

Newcastle, whose only domestic defeat of the season had been to Northampton in the cup, weren't at the races. They were out-fought and out-thought and the anticipated backlash never materialised. If anything, Richmond raised their game and it was Newcastle who looked outnumbered.

The kick-off was put back by 10 minutes to accommodate the crowd (either that or for the corporate hospitality guests to finish their dessert) and the delay did nothing to cool the intent of the rival forwards. Quite the reverse. In the opening minutes, Craig Quinnell and Gary Armstrong were spoken to by the referee, Ed Morrison, and when Matt Pini took possession near the touchline, Nick Popplewell did his best to drive the full-back into the fourth row of the stand. Then Barry Williams and Doddie Weir were shown yellow cards after another incident.

Newcastle had not settled when Richmond hit them in the 10th minute with the first of their four tries. Spurning kicks at goal when they were awarded penalties, Richmond opted to attack from the line-out and when Adrian Davies delivered a flat pass to Jason Wright on the burst, the centre crashed over.

Wright had come in as a late replacement for the Lion Allan Bateman, who has a shin injury, and the biggest compliment that can be paid to Wright is that Bateman could not have taken it better.

Preferring another line-out to a penalty, Craig Gillies won possession and with Craig Quinnell leading the charge, the Newcastle pack was sufficiently preoccupied for Andy Moore to dart through a gap and score near the posts.

Newcastle did not know what had hit them and nor did Van-Zandvliet when he required treatment after receiving the attentions of Scott Quinnell. The culprit, himself, held his hands up after a word from Morrison and ran off the pitch with no complaint. Afterwards, Quinnell claimed that he had raised his knee after being punched. John Kingston, the Richmond coach, said he would look at the video today before deciding on his course of action. Such was the lack of drama over the incident that the crowd weren't sure what had happened.

Within seconds, Scott's brother almost went off in sympathy. Craig Quinnell knocked over Pat Lamb and received merely a ticking off. He could not have reacted better had it been a pep talk. On the stroke of half-time, big Craig, taking a pass on the short side after Newcastle had once again lost possession, blasted his way through four defenders. It had smash and grab written all over it and it typified Richmond's determination.

The London club, who led 22-3 at half-time, did not yield an inch in the second half. Indeed, they increased their lead. After Davies had kicked a penalty, the former Wales stand-off smartly gained a rebound from Armstrong, who failed to cleanly gather a high kick from Moore and fed an inside pass to Dominic Chapman. The left-wing sprinted over and, astonishingly, Richmond led 30-3.

Newcastle were awarded a penalty try in the 70th minute and got another through Tony Underwood but they could hardly be described as consolation scores.

Richmond: M Pini; S Brown, J Wright, E Va'a (M Deane, 35), D Chapman; A Davies, A Moore; D McFarland, B Williams, J Davies (D Crompton, 69), C Quinnell (A Codling, 74), C Gillies, B Clarke (capt), S Quinnell, R Hutton (R Martin, 64).

Newcastle: S Legg; J Naylor, V Tuigamala (M Shaw, 35), A Tait, T Underwood (J Wilkinson, 79); R Andrew, G Armstrong; N Popplewell, R Nesdale, P Van- Zandvliet, G Archer, D Weir, P Lam, D Ryan (capt), R Arnold (P Walton, 64).

Referee: E Morrison (Bristol)