On a glorious Saturday afternoon down at Hurlingham Park, the Hammers were looking to start the season on a high, beating Richmond, who had defeated them in last year’s semi-final. The Hammers, captained by Gary Leith for the first time started the game well, demonstrating some excellent structure and patience in attack. It would be this structure that would allow the Hammers to bounce back from an early try for Richmond against the run of play. Excellent phase play from the forwards saw James Cramp crash over close to the line to score the first try of the season and draw the home side level.
From the kick off Hammersmith again made territory gains into the Richmond half and it was from this pressure that Cramp scored his second of the day. Cramp’s excellent interception from a wayward Richmond pass saw him in acres of space, he backed himself for the corner only to then realise perhaps this pace was lacking. Excellent footwork would prove to be his savour, stepping the Richmond full-back with ease and elegance to score his second try of the game and for the Hammers to take the lead.
Richmond then scored another try against the run of play. With the Hammers looking for their third score of the afternoon camped on the opposition’s 5 metre line a loose pass was intercepted by the Richmond hooker and he managed to run the length of the field to score. The whole Hammers back 3 then became prime candidates for a joint tin man award for not being able to run down a hooker from 80 metres!
This try give the visitors momentum but it was Hammersmith’s turn to score against the run of play. From a Richmond lineout in the Hammersmith 22 the hosts managed to turnover possession, with the ball shipped out to 12 Keith Rogers he crafted a precise cross field kick pass to full back Huw Bowen to spark a deadly cover attack. The ball then intelligently kicked in behind the covering defence and from a good kick chase the ball was recovered with Rogers finishing off a move he started by scoring in corner.
Richmond then mounted a sustained attacked but some outstanding scramble defence held the visitors at bay. This defence was led by winger Al Horner who single handily stopped a certain try on his opposite wing with a massive hit. This was one of many huge and crucial tackles made by the man of the match on the day.
Half time score: 17-10 to the hosts.
Hammers kicked on and took charge at the start second half again working the forwards phase play well and playing territory when required. With a change in the weather the rain began to pour down, exceptional organisation and structure lead by Gary Leith and Rob Fox would prove to be the difference. From another dominant lineout drive in the Richmond 22 the forwards then worked through a large number of tighter phases before a good hard line from Keith Rogers broke down the battered Richmond defence to score an excellent team try.
Hammersmith turned more dominance into points soon after, with one of many ruck turnovers on the day captain Leith created confusion in the Richmond back 3 with an accurate kick in behind, with the ball bouncing it would fall into the grateful hands of prop John Conway and he cantered over from 20 metres out to put the game out of sight for the visitors.
Richmond scored 2 consolation tries in the last 20 to flatter their total when the Hammers side was unsettled with a number of injuries. This did not take the shine away from an excellent team performance which brought the result it very much deserved.
Final Score: Hammers 29 Richmond 20.
MOT: Al Horner for his epic defence!