Rugby Union: Tigers frozen out by fire of Richmond
Leicester must have suspected it would be an uncomfortable experience when Joel Stransky, their match-winning outside-half, rewrote history by misquoting the unfortunate Captain Oates. Barely eight minutes had gone when he told his clubmates: "I'm just going back inside and I may be some time." It was the last the Tigers saw of him and, what was more, the last they saw of the two important Allied Dunbar Premiership points on offer last night.
In positively Antarctic conditions, Stransky damaged a rib cartilage in the first few seconds and was soon to be seen trudging disconsolately towards the warmth of the dressing-room. It may prove to be the move of the season: not only did he escape frostbite, but he also saved himself the pain of confronting a big-hitting Richmond side in quite exceptional form. They ran in five excellent tries to protect one of the longest unbeaten home records in the Premiership - they last lost at the Athletic Ground some 25 games ago - and in so doing announced themselves as the latest capital outfit to harbour legitimate title ambitions.
Richmond played into the full fury of a particularly vicious easterly wind and it was perfectly understandable that their hands should let them down early on. Those errors gave Michael Horak, standing in for Stransky as the visitors' prime marksman, an immediate sighting of the posts and he promptly claimed the opening three points from less than 30 metres.
Yet the Londoners had sufficient faith in their handling ability to unleash an extravagant range of intricate moves, most of them based on Allan Bateman's unerring eye for the wounding angle. Sure enough, the Welsh centre selected exactly the right line to create an 18th-minute try for his midfield partner, Steve Cottrell, and with a second Welsh Lion, Barry Williams, running hot in the Richmond front row and the exotic partnership of Agustin Pichot and Earl Va'a full of ideas at half-back, Leicester were cast in the unusual role of second-raters.
The home side doubled their tally nine minutes later when Craig Quinnell, whose mountainous form makes an utter mockery of his absence from the Welsh team, thundered on to a long Ben Clarke pass, muscled his way to the Leicester 22 and then watched his fellow lock, Craig Gillies, canter gratefully to the line without a defender in sight.
Quinnell's contribution put his opposite number, Martin Johnson, in a mood even bleaker than the one in which he began the game. The two indulged in a prolonged bout of handbag-swinging early on - Quinnell, sitting astride the England front-jumper, was in the pound seats throughout the incident - and when Johnson swallow-dived into a ruck and then compounded the sin by arguing the toss with the referee, he earned himself a lecture to go with his bruised ego.
Still, you can't keep a good man down. After Matt Pini had extended Richmond's lead with a penalty, Johnson cottoned on to some rare Leicester attacking ball and made the decisive run into the Richmond 22 to pave the way for a try to the left of the posts by Stuart Potter.
It would count for nothing. Richmond came out for the second half breathing fire amid the ice and they rattled along at a point a minute as Clarke, Dominic Chapman and Scott Quinnell, joining his brother on the rampage, crossed for contrasting tries in the third quarter.
When the Tigers did get a sniff of possession they were clattered backwards by a home back row relishing every ounce of physical confrontation and the game was dead and buried long before the Quinnells gave way to Alex Codling and Adam Vander - and gave a welcome touch of respite to the visitors into the bargain.
Richmond: Tries Cottrell, Gillies, Clarke, Chapman S Quinnell; Conversions Pini 2; Penalty Pini. Leicester: Tries Potter, Greenwood; Conversion Horak; Penalty Horak.
Richmond: M Pini (S Mason, 69); J Wright, A Bateman, S Cottrell, D Chapman; B Va'a, A Pichot; D Crompton, B Williams, J Davies, C Quinnell (A Codling, 69), C Gillies, B Clarke (capt), S Quinnell (A Vander, 75), R Hutton.
Leicester: M Horak; C Joiner, S Potter, W Greenwood, L Lloyd; J Stransky (N Malone, 9; A Healey, 60), J Hamilton (D West, 68); P Freshwater (D Garforth, 62), R Cockerill, G Rowntree, M Johnson (capt), F Van Heerden, P Gustard, W Johnson, L Moody.
Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).
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