Sunday’s fourth round match-up pitted the two remaining winless teams in the Women’s Premiership against each other with both sides desperate to kick-start their season. After a topsy-turvy battle that saw momentum swing both ways, Richmond’s wonderful rearguard effort at the death secured a memorable victory under the floodlights of the Athletic Ground.
Wasps got off to a flying start when Tina Veale scored a try just a minute into the game after a great break from Hannah West with the conversion from Hannah Edwards putting Wasps up 7-0.
This early score jolted Richmond into action and they earned several penalties inside opposition territory but were unable to convert them into points. Abi Chamberlain pushed a kick at goal wide and when Richmond opted for the driving maul, the visitors repeatedly stopped it illegally. It was then Wasps turn to apply some pressure at the other end but a fine break by Oli Davies relieved the pressure and kept Richmond within striking distance.
The home team would make the most of this several minutes later with a wonderful flowing try that started with breaks by Oli Davies and Kay Wilson and was finished moments later when the ball was shipped wide brilliantly where Alicia McComish showed off great speed and strength to score in the corner and reduce the deficit to two.
Wasps responded well, launching an attack into Richmond territory and earning a penalty on the back of a dominant scrum. The subsequent kick at goal faded wide though, and a strong run by Alex Matthews with the Richmond backs to the wall ensured we got to half time at 5-7.
Richmond started the second half brightly, winning a penalty in the opposition half and then utilising an effective driving maul to get to the Wasps five metre line. The away side put in some big tackles as part of an impressive goal-line defence, but unable to escape their half the pressure eventually told. Having earned a scrum inside the Wasps 22, number eight Alex Matthews picked from the base and crashed through several tackles to score an impressive solo try.
At 10-7 with half an hour left to play it was clear we were in for a thrilling finish and it was Wasps that took the initiative, going through the phases to get into Richmond territory. A great break by the impressive Hannah West appeared to have the try-line beckoning but Oli Davies pulled off a brilliant try-saving tackle to keep Richmond ahead.
Wasps kept the pressure on and after several Richmond infringements the home side was reduced to 14 men with a yellow card issued to Rebecca Ball just before the hour mark. The resulting kick was knocked through the sticks to tie the game up at 10 apiece and swing the momentum in Wasps favour.
With the weather deteriorating, both sides showed a willingness to play some fantastic attacking rugby but it was the home team that slowly began to turn the screw in front of a lively crowd. With a siege launched on the Wasps line, it was all that the visitors could do to keep them off the board but two yellow cards in the space of five minutes saw them reduced to just 13 men as Richmond returned to a full complement of players.
The line-out had been working wonderfully all day for the home side and it was fittingly another driving maul off the back of the set piece that saw Richmond break the deadlock, as the pack forced their way over the line and hooker Emma Croker touched down to make it 15-10.
With 10 minutes still to play there was plenty of time for Wasps to force themselves back into it and they put some serious pressure on the Richmond defense. Liz Crake almost went in for a game-tying score but another crucial tackle by Oli Davies kept her out and gave the home team a chance to clear their lines.
With time ticking down and Wasps returning to 15 women we had a grandstand finish in store but the Richmond defense remained tireless as it put in tackle after tackle to protect the slender lead. A last minute set piece in the Richmond half gave Wasps a chance but the home team executed a perfect choke tackle to turn the ball over and secure a crucial victory.
Richmond walked away with the spoils and their first victory of the season and will next face the Aylesford Bulls Ladies on the 17th of October.
Richmond 15 (5)
Tries: McComish, Matthews, McCarthy
Wasps 10 (7)