Rugby Union: Richmond sustain their pride

Richmond 18 Saracens 25
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The Independent Online
SARACENS DULY qualified for Europe at the Madejski Stadium in Reading last night, but the political rugby balls on the other side of the half-way line did not even look like qualifying for oblivion. Depleted by late cry-offs and depressed by the desperate commercial cynicism of the last six days, impoverished Richmond still played with enough pride and passion to make a mockery of attempts to consign them to the knacker's yard.

Sadly, John Kingston, their coach, has almost run out of patience with the game's administrators. Indeed, he is close to falling out of love with the game. After describing his "deep shock" at the opportunistic attempt by rival clubs to relieve Richmond of their Premiership status, he said: "When all this is resolved, I'll take a break and decide whether I still want to be part of this industry. I intend to fight for Richmond every inch of the way, but when we finally know what we're doing next season, I'll sit down and think about what I want to do. At the moment, I'm full of mistrust."

Richmond fielded a pair of rookies in their pack and if Michael Swift struggled against Tony Diprose and Richard Hill in the loose exchanges, young Gary Powell at least showed some vim and vigour by landing a right hand on the granite features of Roberto Grau as the opening scrum broke up in first degree mayhem. Indeed, the home side had their fair share of the opening 15 minutes, but when your luck is out, life slaps you in the face. Alain Penaud would surely have been neutralised 20-odd metres out had a juggle of the ball not deceived the home midfield and allowed the Frenchman a free passage.

Before the half-hour, Kyran Bracken manufactured the sweetest of tries for Gavin Johnson; the England scrum-half handled twice, contributing a scything break into the Richmond defence on each occasion. When Penaud's flip and a rampage from Danny Grewcock opened the door for Kevin Sorrell before the break, Saracens were in clover. All Richmond had managed was a solitary penalty from Earl Va'a.

They managed rather more three minutes after the break when Allan Bateman and Nick Walne chanced their arms and somehow created a score for Jason Wright. Va'a further reduced the deficit with a penalty, but Johnson twice replied in kind in the final quarter to send Saracens over the horizon. Va'a's chip and chase try on the final whistle mattered little to the outcome, but it mattered an awful lot to his colleagues. They deserved that much, at least.

Richmond: Tries Wright, Va'a; Conversion Va'a; Penalties Va'a 2. Saracens: Tries Penaud, Johnson, Sorrell; Conversions Johnson 2; Penalties Johnson 2.

Richmond: E Va'a; J Wright, A Bateman (B Shelbourne, 72), M Deane, N Walne; R Butland (T Whitford, 66), A Moore; D Crompton, B Williams (A Cuthbert, 69), G Powell, B Cusack (J Barfoot, 77), C Gillies, M Swift (A Sheridan, 55), B Clarke (capt), A Vander.

Saracens: G Johnson; R Constable, J Thomson, K Sorrell (S Ravenscroft, 78), B Daniel (R Thirlby, 72); A Penaud, K Bracken; R Grau, G Chuter (M Cairns, 38), B Reidy (D Flatman, 72), P Johns, D Grewcock (C Yandell, 72), B Cole (P Ogilvie, 55), A Diprose (capt), R Hill.

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).