Esher tests Royal Navy fitness

At the top of National 1, Esher was never going to be an easy team to beat on home ground. This was to be the second year that the Royal Navy has played this re-established fixture. Although not a full 1st team, the Esher side contained a wealth of experience with several players on loan from Wasps and other top-flight clubs. This gave the Surrey team size and speed that would ask questions of the Navy defence and fitness.

From the kick-off the Esher side showed its intent attacking wide and with pace. The Navy defence closed them down and Esher's only option was a kick over the top; a fumble by the Navy put the ball into the hands of the Esher winger who scored in the corner (1 min 5-0). 

From the re-start the Navy attacked the kick and pressurised Esher whose only reply was to drive around the sides of the ruck with the forwards. The Navy defence met this challenge and made Esher work hard for every phase. As the attack faltered the only option again for Esher was kicking, which went too long and gave the Navy a 22m drop-out.

Following the first scrum of the game the Navy failed to secure its ball in the preceding phase which allowed the Esher team to turn over the ball; a very quick passing movement lead to Esher's 2nd try (Con 12-0).

On the restart the Navy team showed that it was not going to allow Esher to dominate the game and good interplay between POAET Dave Pascoe (RNAS Culdrose) and the Navy back row provided the space needed on the outside. This was attacked by Mne Jonny Stephens (CTCRM) on the wing who was supported by full back Cpl Greg Barden (RM Poole) to drive deep into the Esher half.

Following a lineout Esher again attacked through the backs. Navy left wing Logs (CS) Josh Drauniniu (HMNB Portsmouth) stepped in off his wing to make a ‘man and ball' tackle that stopped the Esher attack and left the Esher player wondering what had hit him.

A good period of Navy play directed by stand-off Capt Tom Glover RM (CTCRM) allowed the strong running Navy centres of ET (ME) Dale Sleaman (HMS Cumberland) and Mne Scott Llewellyn (Cdo Logs Regt) to punch holes into the Esher midfield. This along with Cpl Greg Barden coming into the line at every opportunity put Esher under pressure and it was only good ‘scramble defence' by Esher that stopped the Navy scoring on several occasions.

Esher, not to be out done, kicked the ball deep into the Navy half at every opportunity and were eventually rewarded with a penalty (15-0). Following the score the Navy put together a sustained period of play that produced a penalty. The Navy stand-off Capt Tom Glover kicked the Navy to within 5m of the Esher line. Good work at a succession of lineouts by 2nd Rows Capt Stu MaClaren (RMR Bristol) and Lt Nial Copeland (MWS Collingwood) provided a good platform for the Navy forwards to set up several driving mauls. This drew in the Esher defence and allowed gaps to appear, which were exploited by both Cpl Greg Barden and Logs (CS) Josh Drauniniu; these attacks only failed to produce scores due to miss-timed passes and determined defence from Esher. (HT 15-0).

Esher started the 2nd half as it had done the first with sustained pressure. An infringement for  ‘holding on' on the ground by the Navy gave the Esher team an opening penalty (18-0) after 45 mins. The Navy coaches started to ‘ring the changes' in the front by bringing on both PO (AH) Jan Laity (RNAS Culdrose) and Lt Dale Smith RN (HMS Sultan) at Hooker and Loose-head.

The Navy continued to attack at every opportunity, and good work by the Navy forwards disrupted an Esher lineout with the turn-over ball driven hard into the Esher midfield by the Navy centres. The Esher rush defence was eventually caught out by Logs (CS) Josh Drauniniu to produce the first Navy try (18-5 after 50 mins). 

Esher was rewarded for a good passage of play with a penalty on the Navy 22m line which was converted (21-5). The Navy backs worked hard and good play again by Capt Tom Glover allowed the Sleaman - Llewellyn centre partnership to create several unsuccessful opportunities. Against the run of play Esher managed to push the Navy back to their own 5m line, the following Navy scrum was secured but an uncharacteristic mistake between LAET Marsh Cormack (HMS Sultan) and POAET Dave Pascoe allowed the Esher scrum-half to score in the corner (28-5). This was not to be the end of the scoring as the Navy gave away another penalty (31-5). However, the Navy stuck to the task and produced a try late on in the game by Logs (CS) Josh Drauniniu which was converted by POAET Dave Pascoe. (FT 31-12).

This was a high tempo game throughout and the fitness of the Navy team was evident in the latter stages as several of the Esher team began to suffer with cramp. The match allowed the Navy coaching team to see several players in different positions, and also for players like L/Cpl Calum MaCrae (CTCRM) to have some game time on return from injury before the French Navy Encounter on Friday 19th March. 

Royal Navy:
Cpl G Barden (RM Poole), Log(CS) Josh Drauniniu (HMNB Portsmouth), Mne Scott Llewellyn (Cdo Logs Regt RM) (L/Cpl C MaCrae (CTCRM) - 70 min)), D Sleaman (HMS Cumberland), Mne Jonny Stephens (CTCRM), Capt T Glover RM (CTCRM), POAET Dave Pascoe (RNAS Culdrose), AB(WS) M Roberts (HMS Bulwark), NA (AH) Priddy (RNAS Culdrose) (PO(AH) A Laity (RNAS Culdrose) - 45 min), Capt T Evans-Jones (42 Cdo RM) (Lt D Smith RN (HMS Sultan) - 45 min), Capt S MaClaren RM (RMR Bristol) (AET J Lamsin (RNAS Culdrose -75 min), SLt N Copeland RN (MWS Collingwood)(Mne D Scotthorne (42 Cdo RM) - 66 min), POPT Les Dennis (HMS Nelson), Mne Kieran Morton (UKLFCSG)(AET G Jones (RNAS Yeovilton) -51 min), LAET M Cormack (HMS Sultan).