Richmond Loses A Heartbreaker

Saturday, November 28th - Richmond headed over the Arthur Laing and into Kitsilano to play the recently relegated Meralomas of Vancouver. On account of Richmond's lack of match-fit props, there would be only a first division game on the day. Richmond dressed its finest and healthiest 22 players in their familiar red and black stripes and trotted out onto the still largely frozen Connaught main field against the home side Meralomas in their black and orange jerseys with the white trim.

The first twenty minutes were fairly evenly matched: both teams running well; the scrums steady; the tackling sure. It was Meralomas (lead by veterans Dan Fumano, Dave Brammall and Josh Clarke in the forwards) who struck first, with a converted try to put Richmond behind by seven. After some sustained, but ultimately fruitless pressure by Richmond, followed by some tactical kicking by the Meralomas - the home side scored again in the corner as Gavri Grossman (son of former RRFC prop Craig Grossman) was awarded a try. Convert was missed - but a 12-0 score-line had the boisterous and well-filled Richmond sideline worried of a repeat of last year's meeting between the two teams which resulted in a track meet victory for the Lomas. But this was not last season - the fortitude gained by the return of Jon "Big Bear" Findlay to the team for 2015, along with the continued maturation of key players like Captain Mike Marquardt, hooker Lucas Paczek and utility man Geoff Girling surely paid off in this contest. While Girling came off after 35 with what looked like a rib injury - his replacement young Brian Plenert picked up his socks and helped the RRFC fight on. Marquardt, as a result of some nifty passing by some loose forwards, scored the team's first tally - converted by Andrew McIntyre - under the posts: 12 - 7 the score at half.

Richmond's odds-and-sods back-line, featuring out-of-position forwards McIntyre and Matt Wong-Rose, looked like it might come unhinged when Wong-Rose was substituted at half. His replacement was former Meraloma Hirdemail "Herbie" Rai, fresh from a two game suspension for a suspect tackle against Langley - and the 40-year-old hooker-come-winger stood firm. Crafty veteran Alex Brown led by example from the fullback position, helping his line-mates stuff breakthrough attempt after breakthrough attempt by the Meralomas. Riley Moynahan (another former Loma) and Josh Pillsbury - both young, both eager, both running like men possessed - turned any wide-ball play into thirty or forty yards of running room. Pillsbury was rewarded for his hard work when (with three Lomas draped on him like black-out curtains at a sleazy motel) he stretched his 5ft-7in frame just far enough to tally to the left of the posts, tying the score at 12! Andrew McIntyre followed with his second convert of the day, and Richmond held the lead for the first time in the game, 14 - 12.

Meralomas seemed to be on the back foot after an injury to their number 10 (and Lemons 7s stalwart) Francois Du Toit knocked the talented ex-UBCer out of the game. Likewise, a spirited qualification round over the first few two months coupled with the exodus of healthy bodies that always seems to happen around this time of year may have contributed to the fact that the Meralomas were down, at home, in their final game of 2015. Or maybe Richmond’s lads, having only the one game to play on the day, finally found themselves in a position to play at a high level and execute their game plan. The back five, especially Doug Embury and Paul Gaudreault, made tackle after tackle, gainline after gainline and put their bodies on the line to keep Richmond in the lead. Arguably the hardest man in Richmond, Pen Drikibau, showed time and again how valuable he is to the Richmond pack, knocking two and sometimes three tacklers back as he drove forward. Brandon Sims, voted by this scribe as the RRFC's heart and soul over the past 18-months, is undergoing a career renaissance - his brief sojourn in the backs from 2009-2012 is now only a distant memory.

The intensity of Richmond's attack looked to pay off again when a phase of play, where nearly every forward touched the ball at some point, ended with the Bear, Jon Findlay, terrorizing the Meralomas backs with ball in hand, then galloping through to score under the posts. A well-earned try and an easy convert for Andrew McIntyre, surely. Alas, likely the only man within the cozy confines of Connaught who thought otherwise was the one controlling the game. Let it be said it is not this writer's modus operandi to blame the man in the middle - but sometimes things need to be shared: way out of position, nearly twenty yards behind the play, watching absent mindedly, like a Sunday-morning six-a-side soccer ref nursing a hangover. The visitor's sideline was apoplectic; surely he couldn't have missed that, could he have? Alas, he did, and the wind in the Richmond sails seemed to vanish, with the good ship Meraloma surging forward in their wake.

Scrambly defence, some errant passes, and just plain bad luck resulted in the Meralomas scoring two tries (one converted by Mike Hall) in the final ten minutes, putting the game and the much-needed bonus point out of reach for the RRFC. The looks on the players faces after the game said it all - the boys knew they'd let a massive upset slip through their fingers. From this angle, the man of the match in the backs was newcomer to the club (from UVIC) Tyler Sangha - who played 80-minutes full-tilt from the scrum-half position. Worth mentioning in the forwards was the unsung and stabilizing scrum force of former collegiate baseball player Hayden Malcolm whose big frame and punishing running style had fans harkening back to the heyday of former Canadian Junior prop Mike "Chivy" Livingston.

Besides the "held-up" call (and the decision to play the game on a pitch that a few players described as cement covered by hard-wood flooring) referee Toby Mustill showed well with the whistle. The Meralomas, always the gracious hosts, welcomed the RRFC and its travelling entourage into their picturesque clubhouse, just off of 10th street, to drink beers and tell tales long into the night - in fact no one has seen summer-time 'Loma and RRFC 8-man Brian Williams since!

For the RRFC, it is on to their final match against Surrey - the curtain closer on an up-and-down 2015. For the Meralomas, who will surely recuperate, re-tool and re-load for 2016, it is off to the figgy puddings and Christmas hams a week early.

Until next time: Onwards! Upwards! The RRFC!

Senior Mens Rugby

Days: Tuesday & Thursday (Rain Or Shine)

Time: 7:00 PM

Location: King George Park (Field 2) at 12360 Cambie Rd, Richmond

Contact: Kevin Nielsen (Head Coach - 604.240.6877)

Junior Boys Rugby

Days: Wednesday & Friday

Time: 5:30 PM

Location: South Arm Park (Field 3) at 8880 Williams Rd, Richmond

Contact: Al Smith (Head Coach - 604.928.4037)