Rugby Union: Richmond's mastery of minimalist style

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Richmond 37 Exeter 10

THE QUARTER-FINAL stage is about as far as Richmond have gone in the Cup to date. But their passage through to their second successive appearance in the last eight yesterday was not quite the slaughter many had expected. Exeter were no mugs. Their's was a streetwise pack and they also had some thrusting backs, all of which posed problems for an, at times, rather slow-witted Premiership One side.

Richmond adopted a minimalist approach, doing just enough to maintain their supremacy. They defended stoutly, and had to to keep out the eager Exeter players, who all had plenty to prove; but the West Countrymen's propensity to turn over possession, especially when within striking distance, must have frustrated the handful of supporters who bothered to turn up at the Madejski Stadium in Reading.

True Spencer Brown did run in a hat-trick of tries, he also achieved the feat against Newbury in the previous round, and the left wing's power and pace is something to see. Richmond also have a couple of youngsters of outstanding promise, one a 19-year-old lock, Andy Sheridan, who thundered over from short range following a line-out, for the first try.

And, at full back, Lee Best, barely 20, demonstrated pace, vision and courage in defence. Both players are products of the Academy and on this evidence should soon be established members of the first team squad.

"We showed Exeter respect," said Richmond director of Rugby John Kingston. "We could have gone out there with second choice players in the pack, but we felt that was not the right thing to do." It certainly wasn't. Had they done that then there would have been every chance of a Cup upset and Kingston said: "They would ask questions of any division two side."

With the romance out of the way, Richmond's Tony Hallett said: "What we need now is to be drawn at home to Harlequins, because that looks like being the only way we are going to get to play them this season."

He was referring to the escalating row over the postponement of an Allied Dunbar Premiership match last November.

Although, according to Richmond, they offered a string of alternative dates Quins maintained that the match should have been played at their old Athletic Ground. Richmond said no, and may be resigned to conceding, and consequently being docked a couple of points.

Richmond: Tries Sheridan, Brown 3, Walne, Va'a; Conversions Va'a, Butland; Penalty Va'a. Exeter: Try P John; Conversion Easson; Penalty Easson.

Richmond: L Best; N Walne (M Dixon, 48), A Bateman, M Deane, S Brown; E Va'a (R Butland, 69), A Moore; D McFarland, B Williams (A Cuthbert, 69), D Crompton, A Sheridan, C Gillies, R Hutton, B Clarke (capt), A Vander (L Cabannes, 69).

Exeter: J Fabian; C Wall (P Greenaway, 63), L Webber, C Laity, M Rose; B Easson, R John (R Pellow, 73); P Sluman (R Gibbins, 66), P John (S Ryan, 80), W Reed (J Alvis, 66), D Cross, Rob Baxter (capt), Richard Baxter (A Beattie, 63), R Armstrong (R Hutchinson, 73), G Willis.

Referee: R Goodliffe (Sheffield).