Cinderford United suffered a second defeat in a row in the Zoo Sports Shield at home to an outstanding Richmond Vikings.
Richmond are the reigning Shield champions and boast a 100% record in all games this season including a midweek defeat of Oxford University earlier in the season. Their talent and ability was in evidence in abundance on Saturday as they ripped apart a young United side in the first 25 minutes with a comprehensive display of all round rugby.
Richmond kicked off and played away from the clubhouse meaning the United had a wickedly bright and dipping sun in their eyes in the first half. The kick off was caught but within one pass the United knocked on. From the resultant scrum the visitors eased through several phases combining forwards and backs and eventually exposed the home side wide out on the left as their winger cantered in for their first try. The Londoners fly half converted and visitors were off and running – literally.
The United’s first visit into Richmond territory saw them concede a penalty at the breakdown for holding on. Richmond quickly tapped and a kick ahead bounced all too kindly into one of their centre’s hands and he ran in the second try in in the same left hand corner. The conversion was missed but Richmond led 12-0 within five minutes. The United defended bravely in the face of numerous attacks but there was a degree of inexorability about Richmond’s next two tries. Both involved multiple phases with a combination of slick passing and hard running.
Try as they undoubtedly did the home lost the physical battle and both the third and fourth Richmond tries were scored through the forwards close to the United’s posts. The conversions were a formality and the United looked to be on the verge of a terrible hiding. It is to their enormous credit that, yet again this season, they demonstrated ample courage and commitment to stem the tide and indeed respond so positively. Players with first team action (this season) namely; Stefan Hawley, captain Chris McNeil, Mike Uren, Rhys Luckwell, Mike Davies and Dave Wheeler led the way and the United youngsters visibly grew into the game.
Prop Davies and hooker Wheeler led an inspired United scrummaging performance and the last ten minutes of the half saw the United attack hard. A five metre line out was well controlled and the outstanding Will Hodgetts cut a great line from the centre to force his way over for a United try. Scrum half Ollie Whiting converted and only desperate Richmond defence prevented a second United try before half time.
The second half continued to be a much more even contest. Cinderford youngsters like wingers Jack Richards and Liam Littleton and even younger second row partners Sam Morse and Jack Shields grew as the game went on and gave the United a real energy. Nevertheless Richmond struck again, this time from deep in the fiftieth minute, and despite some brave United scramble defence the visitors had too much skill, power and pace and added a fifth try – again converted. The floodgates never opened as the United’s admirable resilience never faltered and replacements Jake Drinkwater and Toby Farrier added to the effort.
The United stood toe to toe with their accomplished opponents for the remainder of the game and time and again launched attacks which fell in vain. However, near the end of the game they were rewarded when Shields crashed over after an excellent attack which was reminiscent of an earlier Richmond score as backs and forwards combined through numerous phases. Whiting converted to narrow the eventual deficit.
Cinderford United; Stefan Hawley, Jack Richards, Andrew Boyce, Will Hodgetts, Liam Littleton, Tom Law, Ollie Whiting, Mike Davies, Dave Wheeler (Neil Cully), Alex Gordas (Jake Drinkwater), Sam Morse (Angus Hodges), Jack Shields, Rhys Luckwell, Chris McNeil (Toby Farrier), Mike Uren.