Defeated but not downhearted
RN Women XV
Wednesday will go down in RN Women's rugby history as a great disappointment for the team. Following on from their credible performance against the French Navy at the end of March the ladies will have been looking to improve on their performance in the 2016 IS completion when they lost at home 0 - 47. But unfortunately it was not to be; however much the Navy Women's team performance improves, it seems that the other Service teams are also continuing to see an exponential improvement year on year.
Team captain Charlotte Fredrickson led her team out in the sunshine at RAF Halton in front of the Coslett Stand to be introduced to the President of the Royal Navy Rugby Union, Adm Sir Philip Jones and Vice-Chairman and Director of Rugby for the Royal Air Force, Air Commodore Chris Moore. This was followed by a tuneful rendition of the National Anthem (quickly becoming a trademark of the RN Women's team).
The opening minutes seemed to indicate how the rest of the match would go when the RAF ran over the Navy try line. The scoreboard ticked up to show 5 - 0 but the referee, having consulted with the touch judge, ruled no try. The respite was brief for the Navy as they were quickly forced to defend wave after wave of light blue attacks. The pressure eventually told and a penalty was awarded against the visitors which the RAF fly half successfully kicked to rack up the first points, 3 - 0.
The RAF had to wait until the thirteenth minute to be awarded their first try, run in under the posts by one of the centres. Then it was the turn of the dark blues to experience some time in the opposition half. A text book kick by full back Sam Alderson gained plenty of territory for the Royal Navy and from the following lineout the RAF were forced to defend hard. However it was not long before they managed to secure the turn over and the scrumhalf made an impressive run to score the second try for the RAF, 17 - 0, as the first quarter ended.
The second quarter proceeded in a similar fashion with two more tries for the RAF and at half time the score was 27 - 0.
Pippa Hutchinson and Kate Parkman came on to reinforce the Navy side but it wasn't long before the RAF team re-asserted their dominance of the game, with two further tries, scored by their hooker and their left wing. The RAF had an impressive 39 - 0 lead. The Navy team never let their heads drop and Fiesha Greene and Bex Andrews came on to see if they could make a difference. However the RAF were also bringing on fresh legs and replacement No 21 was the next to score, stretching the lead 46 - 0.
Then the RAF seemed to up their work rate, and the Navy Women failed to match it. Two tries in quick succession, after the 65th and 66th minutes, were followed by another pair in the 77th and 78th minutes, after the Navy full back, Helen Stevenson and Stacey Hargrave both went off injured. The final score was RAF Women 72 - RN Women 0.
Despite some great individual performances from the Navy players, and fantastic determination never to give up, as they kept on tackling and fighting for the ball, the team were no match for the RAF who ran in 11 tries in all. It is excellent to see the growth and development of the RAF team, who can boast several premiership and international players amongst their squad. The fact that over 800 young ladies took part in a Royal Air Force Women's Rugby Union tournament two weeks ago is testament to the success of their development programme and hopefully the Royal Navy can learn some lessons from their RAF colleagues to help bring new players into the sport.
Winning their first caps for the Royal Navy were flanker Sam Bannard and back Isobel Rawlinson. This marks their 4th appearance in a qualifying representative fixture which includes the Inter Service matches against the RAF and the Army and the annual match against the Marine Nationale Feminines (French Navy Women). Congratulations to Sam and Isobel.
Next up for the Royal Navy Women is their clash against the Army at Kneller Hall on Saturday 29th April KO 1030. If you have a ticket for the match at Twickenham in the afternoon this will also allow you access to Kneller Hall in the morning to spectate.
Team List: Pam Williams-Wilson, Aimee Risker-Woods, Emily Park, Helen Stevenson, Anne-Marie McInytre, Sam Bannard, Charlotte Fredrickson (c), Stacey Hargrave, Kirsty Marlor, Sarah Jenkins, Drew Powell, Nicola Elvidge, Isobel Rawlinson, Ollie Critchley, Sam Alderson Replacements (all used): Kiera Gavan, Pippa Hutchinson, Kate Parkman, Alice Kightley, Fiesha Greene, Bex Andrews, Abi Gilbertson, Billi Staite.
Images Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton