Inverdale Challenge Glory: Royal Marines Outclass Fleet Air Arm in Delayed Finale

18 October 2023

14:00 @ RNAS Yeovilton

Fleet Air Arm


Royal Marines Rugby

In a thrilling rugby match that took place at RNAS Yeovilton, the home side, the Fleet Air Arm, went head to head with the Royal Marines in a clash that doubled up as the first round of the 23/24 season and the final for the 22/23 season due to operational commitments. Despite the backdrop of the famous museum at Yeovilton, the Marines emerged victorious in challenging conditions, with a final score of 41 points to 3.

One notable aspect of the match was the uncontested scrums, which were enforced due to the Marines' inability to field a complete front row. This decision robbed the Fleet Air Arm of a significant weapon in their arsenal. To make matters more challenging for the Marines, due to the rules they were reduced to 14 players on the pitch throughout the match.

For Royal, Felgate and Brink created opportunities to send their marauding back three into open spaces. Teear-Bourge, Duncan, and Clarke were in stellar form, wreaking havoc with the ball in hand, despite the less-than-ideal weather conditions.

The Fleet Air Arm showcased their forward might and competed fiercely in the lineout, with Kerr and Ashton leading the way. However, their inability to gain the upper hand in scrums proved costly leaving the heavy forwards from the Fleet Air Arm frustrated.

Both teams managed the adverse conditions admirably, displaying impressive handling skills throughout the match, even when bone-crunching tackles were made. It was a testament to the skill and determination of both sides.

The Fleet Air Arm enjoyed both experience and youthful enthusiasm as Toogod and Cador set the example for the new backline players; they acquitted themselves well even against the seasoned veterans of the Royal Marines. The match was a showcase of talent, adaptability, and sportsmanship.

Following the intense battle on the field, the teams gathered in the RNAS Yeovilton Warrant Officers, Senior Ratings, and Sergeants' Mess for the post-match ceremony. Jendy Weeks, the daughter of Surgeon Captain (D) John Inverdale RN, had the honor of presenting the prestigious Inverdale Challenge Cup to Royal Marine captain Ben Felgate, celebrating their hard-fought victory in this memorable contest.

Felgate summed up the performance, “We've come together quite late as a group and some of us have played together in the past, in the odd fixture, but this is usual for a boot neck team. We gelled really well and executed our handling pretty well. Our main aim is to try and win this [Inverdale Cup] every single year. We came out to try and beat the Fleet Air Arm who are always a very good outfit. That's what we wanted, and we did it.”

FAA captain Kai Beasley said, “We lost but there are a few positive outcomes for us. We Think it would have been a different game if we were scrummaging, but credit to the marines they played to their strengths which in particularly was their back three. The boys stuck at it, and it was good to get Fleet Air Arm rugby up and running again. It was probably should have been a game for the forwards and the purists, but it turned into quite an expansive game towards the end. So well done Royal. Good game.”

Royal Marines: Mne Cheshire, Mne John, LCpl Lovelady; Mne Young, Mne Elliot, Gapped, Maj Watt, Mne Charlton; Sgt Felgate (C), Mne Brink, LCpl Clarke, Cpl Hall, Mne Dobson, Mne Teear-Bourge, Mne Duncan (VC).

Replacements: Capt Wickham, Sgt Creese, Mne Brown, Mne Atwood, Mne Jenkins.

FAA: K Beasley (C), C Thurgood, T Blackburn; C Kerr, T Ashton; J Donaldson, D Clarke, J Johnson;J Toogood, H Mayes, C Bowes, L Cador, J Wheeler, M Hall, A Cockerill.

Replacements: B Rees, W Napier, S Cobson, E Deadman, G Morris, R Cox, J Cross, C Young.


Words by J Campbell-Baldwin

Images by Callum Sanders and Dave Allen.