Royal Navy Women best performance yet against French counterparts
RN Women XV
Marine Nationale Feminines
The rugby pitch in front of HMS Drake Wardroom was the venue for the latest instalment of the 'Entente Cordial' between the Women of the Royal Navy and the Marine Nationale Feminines. The sun was shining; conditions were perfect for an afternoon of exciting rugby. And the ladies didn't disappoint, with 7 tries, 1 penalty try, 2 yellow cards and a red card the spectators were enthralled to see the French team win their 6th match in a row 17 - 35.
In the first half the teams appeared fairly evenly matched, as play and possession alternated from one end to the other. Early mistakes by the Royal Navy and some excellent French work in the lineout gave the French Women the edge and allowed them to put the first points on the board, after opting to kick a penalty, 0 - 3. They soon capitalised on their lead, pressurising the Navy in their own half. The home side defended well, but after sustained attacks conceded a penalty try, which the French successfully kicked and converted to extend their lead 0 - 10.
This galvanised the Royal Navy team. Working through the phases they moved up the field. A Sarah Jenkins kick to touch bought them further yards and a lineout, but the ball was stolen by the French. The Royal Navy side quickly regained possession and re-attacked. The French conceded a penalty which the home side took quickly; they passed the ball into the experienced hands of team captain Charlotte Fredrickson who found a gap and went over for the try, just before the half time whistle. It was not converted and the score line stood at 5 - 10 going into the break.
The opening minutes of the second half were a bit frantic. The French team were keen to assert themselves but lacked discipline. Their lock was awarded a yellow card for being offside at the breakdown and shortly afterwards the referee had to issue a red card to the French prop for hair pulling!
Two players up, this was surely the Royal Navy's chance, and they didn't disappoint. A try by No 8, Stacey Hargrave, was converted by Sam Alderson to make history for the Women, taking the lead against the French Navy 12 - 10.
Back up to 14 players, the French knew something had to change if they were going to win the match and their tempo appeared to change. They ran in two tries in quick succession, neither of which was converted, to regain the lead 12 - 20.
A few changes for the home side saw Alice Kightley, Kirsty Marlor and Billi Staite come on, bringing with them their previous experience of this fixture. Kirsty Marlor seemed to calm the home side down and they began to take control, looking dominant in the French half. Several phases were played, with Kirsty orchestrating the moves. Then the break came and Drew Powell ran into the corner for the Navy's third try of the match, closing the score to 17 - 20. The way the Royal Navy were playing, and having the extra player advantage, it seemed possible that they would be able to take the lead again.
But it was not to be. Determined not to be beaten, the French team found an extra gear and Carrasquet, the French scrum half, found some space and ran in her second try of the day. It was successfully converted and the scores widened 17 - 27. To add insult to injury, Royal Navy scrum half was awarded a yellow card, so both teams would play the remainder of the match with 14 players. Before the Royal Navy side could compose themselves another French try soon followed, 17 - 32 and in the final minutes of play a penalty was successfully kicked by Carrasquet for the final score to read 17 - 35.
The final score did not reflect how evenly matched the game had been for the majority of play. If it hadn't been for the individual brilliance of the French scrum half, Carrasquet, the score would have been much closer. She is an exceptional player, with an amazing ability to turn on the speed when required plus the added benefit of a strong kicking foot.
Team Manager Jane West should be proud of the performance of her team; they were definitely up for the contest, continually on the attack, making crunching tackles, always on the look out for space. Running in 3 great tries, they will be heartened ahead of their next encounter, in the opening round of the Inter Service competition, when they travel to RAF Halton to take on the RAF on Wednesday 5 April kick off 1230.
Team List: Pippa Hutchinson, Emily Park, Pam Williams-Wilson, Abi Gilbertson, Helen Stevenson, Fiesha Greene, Charlotte Fredrickson (C), Stacey Hargrave, Olivia Critchley, Isobel Rawlinson, Drew Powell, Sarah Jenkins, Nicola Evidge, Bex Andrews, Sam Alderson Replacements: Alice Kightley, Kiera Gavan, Lorraine Osman, Rhiannon Dilmore, Katie Ives, Kirsty Marlor, Megan Lunn, Billi Staite.
Replacements used: Kiera Gavan for Pam Williams-Wilson, Alice Kightley for Abi Gilbertson, Kirsty Marlor for Bex Andrews and Billi Staite for Drew Powell
Images Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton and © Mark Andrews