RAMS Director of Rugby Seb Reynolds believes a dominant forwards effort and some superb defence combined to give his side a superb 27-17 bonus-point National League One victory at home to Darlington Mowden Park, writes Richard Ashton.

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While the hosts overcame a slight wobble after moving 24-3 in front 10 minutes into the second period, they regathered to stay neck-and-neck with Rosslyn Park at the top of the division. Richmond – who beat Blackheath 19-8 but failed to gain a bonus point – drop to third, a point behind the top two.

And Reynolds commented: “The pack were brilliant - our set-piece was outstanding and the scrum was very, very good.

“Against the biggest attacking threat in the league this season, to hold them to three points after 50 minutes, was a really, really good display. (Defence coach) Danny (Batty) is outstanding with them, but the players’ application is brilliant and they’re really fit and work hard for each other.”

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It was actually the visitors who bossed the opening 10 minutes as they pinned Rams in their own half, but the blue wall repelled their efforts.

Reynolds’ side then went down the other end of the pitch and after Joe Craggs was sin-binned, they opened the scoring with a 17th-minute penalty try courtesy of their outstanding scrum.

A second score followed two minutes later after blind-side flanker Jamie Guttridge burst down the left-hand touchline to dot down, and while Andrew Humberstone was unable to add the extras, Rams had a healthy 12-0 advantage.

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Impressive Park fly-half Warren Seals cut the deficit with a penalty, but a second penalty try on the half-hour mark put the hosts in control at 19-3 up, with scrum-half Euan McKirdy sin-binned for being off-side with the line begging for Rams.

Darlington again rallied and dominated the latter stages of the first period, but more excellent defence ensured the home side led by 16 points at the break.

With their pack completely on top at the scrum, Rams skipper Robbie Stapley had no hesitation in taking the set-piece when his side were awarded a penalty on the five-metre line 10 minutes into the second half.

And his decision was justified as he touched down to seal the bonus-point.

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From 24-3 up, however, Rams switched off briefly allowing hooker David Nelson to cross for a converted try on 55 minutes, before the hosts had both Conor Corrigan and Connor Stapley yellow-carded in the space of three minutes around the hour-mark.

Despite playing with 13 men, Rams played the majority of the next stanza in the Park half, only for a turnover on 69 minutes to allow the away side to go coast-to-coast and back again from their own try-line before substitute Oliver Walker went over in the left-hand corner.

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With the gap cut to seven points, the hosts refused to buckle, however, and once again used their scrum to gain territory and penalties before Humberstone slotted three points in the 79th-minute to deprive Darlington of a losing bonus-point.

Reflecting on the first contest of the new decade, Reynolds stated: “It was a good game. Darlington are a very, very good side and we knew we were going to have to contend with a team who are very good in attack and who look to go out wide and from one end of the pitch to the other.

“In parts we switched off which allowed them back into the game, and when we went 24-3 up we maybe thought we’d got the game won.

“For the first time (this season) we slipped off, and in a way it’s understandable because it’s a long season and we’ve had the break for Christmas. I can’t fault the players’ effort, but just in that moment we just lost our focus and you can’t do that at this level.”

He continued: “Darlington were outstanding in the way they came back at us, but we managed the end of the game well and got there in the end.

“It was a good contest to start the year and I was pleased with our attack, we pounced on their mistakes in the first half and played some really good rugby and scored some nice tries. Overall, it was a good, clinical performance.”

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Next up for Rams is a mouth-watering trip to nearest rivals Chinnor on Friday night, and Reynolds can’t wait to renew acquaintances against a side they have played in some thrillers in recent years.

He concluded: “It should be a really good game and Chinnor are a really good side. They had a slightly slow start to the season, but in recent weeks they’ve been really, really good.

“There’s no doubt they could still win the title with the quality of players they have, most of them have been near the top of the league in most of the leagues they’ve played in.

“We’ve never played a Friday night league game before so it should be a great occasion and we’re really looking forward to it."

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