New Caps Show Strength of Squad after French Win

15 March 2023

19:00 @ Plymouth Albion RFC

Senior Men XV


Marine Nationale

Now at the business end of the season with the first of this year's capped games: the Senior Men’s XV hosted the annual fixture against their French counterparts from Rugby Club de la Marine Nationale (RCMN) on a wintery night at Brickfields. The same location will host the first Inter Service game of the year when the RN take on the RAF in 10 days time (Saturday 25th March) so it was a chance to set their stall out and get another hard game under the belt before IS rivalries recommence.

A tactical kicking battle opened up the match with both teams feeling each other out with some impressive kicks being delivered by both sides with the wind not offering much assistance to either. The RN blinked first and the first penalty kick at goal was given to the RCMN which was duly despatched to give the French a 0-3 lead with 8 minutes on the clock. 

This failed to deter the men in blue and they were soon into their attacking work and phase play. When a particular play is working for you, then why not keep it going!? After giving the Exeter Chiefs pack a torrid time with the driving maul 2 weeks ago and driving them back 20 metres on one occasion the RN forwards repeated the trick against the French.  A monstrous drive, starting just inside the French 22 ended up with hooker Rhys Williams going over for the try which was duly converted by Jake Hanley. The fly half’s boot was back in action a few minutes later when he landed a superb 40m effort to increase the lead.

The RN were really getting into their stride now with lots of possession and territory and another try was scored almost straight from the restart. Fijian International Sam Matavesi made a barnstorming run, throwing defenders left and right as he went, to take the play deep into the red zone. The pack secured the ball for a couple of phases which included a massive clear out by Kai Alton that drew appreciation from the knowledgeable crowd and the ball was recycled back to Matavesi who finished what he had started moments before going over the whitewash for the 5 pointer. With another successful kick from Hanley it was 17-3 to the RN and things were starting to look ominous for the French Team.

With full back Craig Duncan and back rower Ratu Vakalutukali beginning to find a lot of open space and running room the MN were forced to dig very deep in their defensive efforts and one huge hit in midfield got them back in the game as a spilled ball was hacked up field and the French chaser won the race to the ball and dotted down for the score. The conversion followed to make the score 17-10 and this is how it stayed until half time.

The weather gods decided to play their part at halftime and thought it would be good to deliver non stop drizzling rain for the second half. This naturally led to a slightly more conservative approach from both teams and inevitably led to some handling errors. About 10 minutes from the start of the half Gaz Evans took the field to earn his 31st RN Cap and equal the number set by the great Bob Armstrong who was in the crowd to watch. Huge congratulations to Gaz, what an amazing effort and having given a good account of himself, he has the opportunity to add to that number with the IS fixtures fast approaching.

The scores for the second half all came in the last 10 minutes with another neatly taken penalty from Hanley and the final try of the game going to Henry Gliddon who hit the angle well and received a perfectly timed pass from Matavesi after a great run from Jerome Rudder initially down the right. The try was again converted by Hanley. The final word went to Jordan Gott who landed another penalty in the final minute to leave the final score 30-13 to the RN. 

Craig Duncan was chosen as the RN player of the match by the French officials after a barnstorming game in which he covered most of the pitch running RCMN ragged as well as producing a number of pressure relieving kicks with his howitzer left boot.

A proud moment in the clubhouse following the game with no less than 10 players receiving their first caps. A massive BZ to the following for joining that elite club: Alton, Williams, Boulton, Toogood, Hanley, Gliddon, Rees, Cleverley, Scott and Cador.

The players produced another fantastic game of rugby and it is now down to us spectators to get to Plymouth on the 25th March and then Twickenham on 13th May to support the team in their quest for IS silverware. See you all there!

Jarrard Hayler said after the match, "It was a very competitive and hard fought game. The French definitely turned up and were there to win. Fortunately we won the physical battle up front and the kick game which finally broke them in the last 15. [It was] a good win from an exciting new squad which also saw us blood 10 new caps. Looking forward to getting back into camp on Sunday and preparing for the RAF next week."

Backs coach Andy Vance said, "We knew we were in for a big test, we always are against the French, and we are very happy with the result; and it’s a big result for us as we build momentum towards IS. 

At times we were our worst enemy in terms of forcing it and making basic errors but when we trusted and stuck to our processes we looked good. The fact that we had 10 new caps on the park tonight again demonstrates the strength and depth we are developing as well."


Words by P Clark

Images by Lee Crabb and Jarrad Hulm