RN and RAF Men Draw Inter Service Opener

25 March 2023

15:15 @ Plymouth Albion RFC

Senior Men XV


RAF Senior Men

After weeks of intense preparation in their training camps, the RN and RAF were set to meet in Plymouth for the first matchup of the Inter Service rugby championship.

The RN were looking to continue their momentum after an impressive victory against the Marine Nationale which took place in Plymouth just 10 days prior, while the RAF hoped to revive the success they enjoyed in 2018 by upsetting the odds in Plymouth and pushing on to win the championship against the Army in 3 weeks’ time at Gloucester.

Keeping in mind their nip-and-tuck game against the RAF last season, which resulted in an 18-10 victory, the RN knew this would be a tough match but were confident in their own ability nonetheless.

Prior to the game, head forward’s coach John Court believed the RN pack were going to be a decisive factor, as the playmaking skills of the backs would prove to be negated by the trench-like condition of the pitch.

As the game kicked off, it was a relatively cagy start for both teams, with the RN picking up 6 points from 2 penalties scored by number 10 Jake Hanley. Like the coaches predicted, the first quarter was heavily dominated by the forwards, with big collisions from the likes of RAF captain and the Elliot Brown PoTM Isaac Norton and the Navy's Ratu Vakalutukali. The RN pack responded well by clearing up efficiently at the breakdowns but were unable to materialise any clear-cut chances in attack. With Norton briefly coming off through injury, the RN looked stronger in each scrum, one of which led to a try in the 28th minute that was held up by the RAF. As momentum was seemingly with the RN, their constant pressure led to a beautiful finger tip take by number 15 Craig Duncan who scored a much needed try before half time. A routine conversion increased the RN lead, but the RAF scored a penalty just before the break to make the score 13-3.

The second half saw multiple phases of play with the RAF mostly in possession. A penalty in the 49th minute seemed to give the RAF the push they needed, and through persistence in attack they eventually scored a try in the 68th minute (though RN remonstrations fell on deaf ears about its legality). This was converted to level the score at 13-13, a disappointing turn of events for the RN considering they still had a player down during the time in which they conceded. Looking to regain their lead, the RN showed creativity in attack with the likes of try scorer Duncan covering ground to drive the RAF back towards their try line. A knock-on from the RAF then gave the RN a line out on the 5 meter line for the last play of the game. The line out, however, was won by the RAF, despite elite ball thrower Matavesi still being on the pitch. This meant the final result was a draw, a difficult result for both teams to take but a great game of rugby from a neutral’s perspective.

Team captain Jarrard Hayler said, "Disappointing result for us and definitely frustrating to end with a draw. Great fighting spirit from both teams and couldn’t fault anyone on the pitch. A lot of lessons learnt from the game and we will be back much sharper and stronger come May."

As the RN and RAF now look forward to their upcoming matches with the Army, the Championship is still to up for grabs for both teams.

Words by Oscar Pick

Images by Lee Crabb, Nick Kennedy, Cat Goryn and Jarrad Hulm