Richmond Athletic Ground – Friday 15 March 2013
The Richmond Heavies have been on the Army Masters Fixture list for many years and the reason is simple; they one of the few civilian veteran sides that season on season offer us a serious challenge.
We have due to the fact that the Richmond Club ground share with championship side London Scottish struggled to play the fixture at their ground for a few seasons, however a space for a Friday evening fixture on their main pitch was found.
On the back of defeats to Kew Occasional and a Welsh Select side at Pyle RFC the Masters were looking for a victory before the start of the Inter-Services campaign.
Galvin Venn playing at Fly half gets the game under way with a good hanging kick, the Richmond pack secure the ball and clear up field with a kick which Gareth Williamson collects and feeds to full back Bruno Green who shows a great acceleration and pace which opens up the Richmond defence, he then feeds Mark Kane playing at centre who draws in the defence before feeding winger Stu James for the first try of the evening with barely 40 seconds on the clock. The conversion is missed, so 5-0 to the Masters.
The game restarts and during the next 20 minutes both sides struggle to get any structure to their pattern of play, as it is stop and start with the referee being the main centre of attention as both sides are guilty on infringing at the tackle area. The Richmond side start to get the big runners going and from a tap penalty ten yards out are able to create a platform to feed the winger who goes over in the corner to level the scores after 22 minutes 5-5. Mark Kane has to leave the field after a clash of heads and losing a couple of teeth with Dan Ratu coming on the pitch as wing and Pepsi Wacokecoke moving to the centre.
The Masters move up field and start putting pressure on the Richmond line and after a period of sustained pressure earn a penalty which Lee Davies puts over for a lead to the Masters 8-5. The Richmond team start to make inroads into the Masters territory and a good move in their backs leads them to scoring a smart try and a lead at half-time 12-5.
With the rain pouring down the game was now going to be a forward battle for the rest of the match. The Richmond pack had many players who have played top class league Rugby not least their second row forward Hugh Vyvyan the Ex Saracens and England player. However the Masters could also match that with the Army’s own famous second row forward Ben Hughes making his debut in a Masters shirt. Both packs bashed away at each other with the Richmond pack getting the upper hand to create an opportunity from a scrum to go over for a try with the conversion making the score 17-5 to Richmond.
Masters up the tempo and have a sustained period of possession and from a scrum under a lot of pressure the Richmond backs manage to break out of the their 22 and hack up field, the ball is knocked on by the Masters, and this time it is the Masters scrum which is under pressure and the Richmond back row break-off for another score 22-5. The Masters pack now start taking the game to their opposite numbers and there are great carries from the likes of Dave Goddard and Neil Griffiths and from one of these forays into the Richmond half Glynn Jones now playing at fly half feeds the replacement winger Don Hayakawa who goes for the line only to be brought up short by a superb try saving tackle by the last defender of Richmond.
The ball is recycled quickly and passes for one corner to the opposite corner and Epi Qolikibua feeds Raks Rakabu for a well worked try; 22-13 with the conversion missed. The Master muster a late surge looking for a score to level the game and restore some pride, however the clock is against them and the team suffer a third defeat in a row, a event that has not occurred for a long time. The knowledgeable Richmond crowd show the appreciation to both sides for a well fought contest and the Masters are hosted well in the club house post match, with the Man of the Match being awarded by the Richmond skipper to Raks Rakabu.
I have it on good authority that the Richmond Heavies team was one of the strongest fielded for many a year. Next up on the 17 April are the RAF Vultures and Masters Head Coach Tiny Baker and his coaching staff have a few difficult decisions as the business end of the season begins to select the best starting fifteen for the Inter Services Competition.
Match Report by: WO2 Jim Evans