Pen No Longer Mightier than the Sword
Following swiftly on the heals of victories by the Royal Air Force and the British Army a rapier like performance by the Royal Navy regularly cut through the student’s defence as the Senior Service posted a comfortable 64 – 19 victory. A good number of Navy supporters had travelled to Cambridge for the match and they will return warmed by the high tempo rugby that the Navy produced. They will also know that next week’s match against the South West Barbarians will be a step up before the cauldron of Stade Mayol awaits in Toulon.
Dale Sleeman led the Royal Navy out and also immediately set the tone for his side. A blistering break saw him cut through the defence to score under the posts to leave Huntley with an easy conversion. 7 – 0 lead for the Navy with barely two minutes played. It was the perfect start but to their credit Cambridge responded well. A penalty conceded by the otherwise very impressive Tom Cowley, at lock, gave them field position and from the lineout their pack drove over to score from a rolling Maul. Thomas converted to level the scores at 7 – 7. It was to be the last moment of cheer for the home supporters in the first half.
From the restart the Royal Navy grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and never let go. Harry Collins was working hard in the loose and well supported by Tom Cowley, Josh Terry and Toots Vakalutukali. Their off load game kept the University’s defence on the back foot which was fully exploited by Nathan Huntley at fly half. His deft passing regularly brought centres Sam Davies (who had replaced Sleeman) and Tichias on to the ball and through the defence. Tries from Kyle Woods, Mark Owen, Mat Tichias and two from Huntley were a fair reflection of the Navy’s dominance. Their high speed, enterprising rugby had entertained the crowd and at half time they had established a 40-7 lead.
So often teams struggle to regain their rhythm after the half time break. However at the start of the third quarter the Navy showed the same determination and work rate to keep their attacking game going. In the same fashion as the first half thee early Naval bombardment sent Woods in for his second try of the game and the Royal Navy’s seventh of the match. There was no let up for the students when the Navy’s replacement came on keen to impress having seen the gauntlet thrown down by their team mates. Their energy kept the tempo up and it was rewarded with further tries for Dom Taylor, a third for Huntley and also Eldon Myers. 64 – 7 and still fifteen minutes to go.
It is to Cambridge University’s credit that the last ten minutes belonged to them. With nothing to loose their threw the ball about and put the Navy defence under real pressure. Just as it seemed as if they would hold their line a moment of consummate skill from Cambridge replacement Strachan allowed him to cross for the student’s second try, converted by Thomas. It was followed shortly after by a try in the corner by Ogunyemi, which gave the score a more respectable look at 19 – 64 but couldn’t disguise the comprehensive defeat they had suffered.
For the Royal Navy it was a true team performance and every player gave their all in terms of work rate and as importantly played for each other, doing the simple things well. The off loading game was effective but it was backed up by some solid work at the breakdown and in the set piece. A most enjoyable game to watch in which a number of players could lay claim to be man of the match. However for his three tries and his overall game management for me it was Nathan Huntley who deserved the accolade.
CURFC: Alderson*, Calvert,*, Poulton, Buizza, Baker*, Mather, Hall, O’Sullivan*, Bilclough, Thomas, Clarke, Cook* (C), Morrison*, Ogunyemi, Allen Reps: Cowans, Wade, Strachan, Somers, Thompson, Peck*
Royal Navy: Terry *, Collins, Owen *, Cowley, Harvey, Basher, Vakalutukali, Cooper *, Fleckney *, Huntley *, Wood, Sleeman * (C ), Tichias *, Myers, Horton Reps: Priddey *, Beasley *, Pascoe E, Cadmore *, Taylor , Shuttleworth, Davies S, Jones, Barnett, Mitchell-Heggs *
Next match SW Barbarians v Royal Navy, Taunton RFC on Wednesday 12 March, KO 1915
A full list of the Senior XV fixtures is available here.
Images by Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones