The Richmond Rugby Football Club celebrated its annual Community Day last Saturday with a 36-19 win over Vancouver rivals the Kats Rugby Football Club.
Richmond opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a try by first-year winger Colton Carpenter. Veteran #8 Lance Davison was next to tally after a long run by flanker Sam Hagong put the Kats defenders on their heels.
Newcomer Kurt Penney put the home side ahead even further in the 20th minute after a spilled ball deep in RRFC territory was scooped up by the speedy Zimbabwean and returned 90 metres for a try. This potent counter-attack seemed to take the wind out of the Kats sails, as shortly after the subsequent kick-off, Richmond was right back in their opponents end.
After a quickly taken penalty, Cameron Knowles was able to score under the posts to give the hosts a 24-0 lead. Richmond's discipline seemed to waiver at this point, as Hagong was shown a yellow card in the 30th minute and Kats capitalized on the man advantage, scoring just before half after some sustained pressure allowed their hard running #8 Elliot Rees to dive over for the try.
At the break, head coach Geoff Girling was able to calm his side down a bit, and as the second half began, Richmond looked like they'd continue their high scoring ways as centre Josh Pillsbury off a set play from a lineout, was able to score Richmond's fifth try of the day.
As the game wore on, some suspect tackling resulted in another yellow card for Richmond - this time to prop Ethan Bacungan - and with another man advantage, Kats were able to claw one back narrowing the lead to 29-14.
After some tactical substitutions Richmond answered back right away - newly returned fly-half Bryan Tyrer was able to draw a crowd of defenders, allowing Davison to score his second of the day, untouched in the corner.
Knowles was able to slot his final conversion of the day from a very difficult angle - bringing the large and boisterous home crowd (filled with many proud alumni) to its feet!
Despite the scoreline, Kats threw everything they had at Richmond in the final 20 minutes, looking to record a bonus point, but some unlucky bounces kept them off the score board until the 76th minute, when the visitors were able to tally their third and final try of the game.
The win continued Richmond's unbeaten streak in 2019, leaving the RRFC in 4th place in their division and looking to secure one of six playoff spots.
After a few lean years since the club's last playoff berth in 2015, as well as a change to a lower division - the club has been rebuilding slowly but surely.
This season, the results are beginning to show as local graduates such as Colton Carpenter and Jeff Harrison, paired with the core of last year's U23 team Ethan Bacungan, Sam Hagong, Brandon Howell, Anthony Hazelman, Erik Favrholdt, Jordan Cronier and Mike Tolman, have begun to gel as a unit.
Longtime players like Cam Knowles, Taran Dhesi, Greg Palin, Matty Wong-Rose and Josh Poehlke who were brought up with the club during its perennial high level finishes of the earlier part of this decade have been able to support ageless workhorses like Lance Davison, Tim Ross and Matt Carmen who are in the twilight of their careers but still competing at a high level.
Though, what has helped the club most advance its running rugby style has been the return of skilled players like club captain Tyler Sangha (UVic), Josh Pillsbury (injury) and Bryan Tyrer (Meralomas) coupled with the addition of talented imports like Joel Heinrichs (West Kelowna), Jeremy Miranda (France), Kurt Penney (Zimbabwe) and Zane Clifford (Regina).
Whatever the rest of the season holds, the club is beginning to play exciting rugby again and will look to upset some of the more established local clubs in the playoffs. The future is red!