U23 XV v Chichester U23
RN U23 XV
This early in the season, the U23s are still establishing the critical building blocks for the two important Inter Service matches in November. With members of the squad unavailable due to operational demands, the team is still a work in progress, with Matt Horton slowly drifting back to his preferred role at Full Back. At Ealing he provided excellent link play from No 9, although today against Chichester he took on the controlling role of fly half in Josh Jones' absence. And if you're going to lead, then lead; a first run out as Captain was placed on his ever-maturing shoulders.
To calm his nerves an early penalty, a minor hiccup of a Chichester score followed by a try in the corner which he couldn't convert, followed by a conversion of the RN's soon to be achieved second try. He must have been tempted but he resisted the call of the drop goal for his personal slam and instead led the U23s to a most impressive first half display.
What ever was said in the changing room before kick off, obviously hit the mark because the Burnaby Road faithful were treated to a well balanced mix of hard running forward play and some incisive lines from the backs as the RN U23 celebrated their first home match with an excellent victory.
Five first half tries gave the Navy team a 36 – 7 half time lead. After Horton's opening effort Jon Henty reminded all why he is a Number 8 with very real promise. A try and typical forthright play marked another excellent performance. It needs to be remembered as he leaves the squad for operational submarine service. So will not be available for the 23s later matches However if available his burgeoning reputation would suggest that he should get a call back South in February with the Seniors.
The third try was just reward for the Navy's sense of adventure. Having spurned the opportunity for a kick at goal with a penalty run deep in Chichester 22, it was lock Ashleigh Wakefield who received the final pass to cross and score. The try a fair reward for his stint in the boiler room.
Though the Navy lead was now comfortable, it was good to see the intensity maintained. With the half drawing to a close there was still time for one of this weekends newcomers to make the head lines. Winger Apenisa Daunibau crossed for try number 4. Navy followers are sure to see plenty of try scoring action from this youngster with stacks of potential but for his first, he had to content himself with a short range effort after the forwards had been held short.
The final score of the half went to another of the rampaging backrow, Jack Tindle. Tindle, along with Henty at 8, newcomer Jordan Shuttleworth at 9 and skipper Horton at 10 were the axis around which the first half dominance was built. It was through their efforts, leadership and game management that at half time the Navy had build a commanding and comfortable 36-7 lead.
The second half saw the inevitable changes and some consequential shift in momentum. It is to the Navy's credit that they kept the pressure on in the early part of the match after the break. Sam Benzies further enhanced his growing reputation as a centre to be watched scored try number 6, converted by another newcomer, Rob McGregor. McGregor was on the field at Fly Half, with Horton's performance being rewarded with the move back to full back. And he certainly made the most of the opportunity as he crossed for the Navy's final try pushing the scoreboard past the fifty points.
With still a quarter of the game to go things were looking very promising. However the weekend's training clearly began to take its toll, along with an understandable relaxation of intensity on the field. To their credit Chichester didn't relent and the final quarter certainly belonged to them as they scored three late consolation tries. It was a good reminder to both the squad and the coaching staff that this match was all about development for the later Inter Services. With ball in hand the side contains a number of game breakers who are a joy to watch. They also have the ability to gel as a cohesive defensive unit. However this takes more time and will no doubt be the focus for the training weekends to come. They return to Burnaby Road for their next match on 6th October when Portsmouth University will be the opposition. Henty will be a loss but it will give others a chance to press their case. Henty's has already been well made. Run silent, run deep, yes, but keep fit for February. For his teammates he leaves behind; their second match was a hard worked but significant step forward. Keep the application hard work going and the rest will take care of itself.
Final Result Royal Navy U23 XV 55 Chichester Academy 22
Image Credit: Alligin Photography / © Lee Crabb