Strong Final Quarter not enough to Deny RCMN

15 March 2023

16:00 @ Plymouth Albion RFC

Senior Women XV


Marine Nationale Feminines

It was always going to be a tough ask to win against Rugby Club de la Marine Nationale but in the final 20 minutes the RN Women showed that they are capable of beating the French. The battle at Plymouth Albion RFC was sometimes exactly that with the skullduggery on display suprisingly resulting in only one yellow card for a French side keen to dominate every aspect of the game by fair or foul means. On a heavy pitch both teams were eager to run the ball and it was evident that clever defence and strong first up takles would be key in this match.

The first try of the game came from Marine Nationale after 10 minutes. RCMN demonstrated strong ball retention and with a scrum half and outside half eminently capable of throwing long passes they were able to release their speedy ball carriers. The French team took the lead 5-0, and it was clear that the RM Band Service with their rousing renditons of the National Anthems had put the wind in the wrong sails.

Marine Nationale next scored with a tap penalty at Navy Rugby's 10m line after a number of tiring defensive phases caught the RN offside. The passes stuck and the French were not adverse to keeping the ball alive off the deck. Though ten points down the Royal Navy had a glimmer of a chance; Ollie C-P playing at 6 after a sojourn to Japan, found debutant Bronagh Gibb in space; the 50m of territory they gained was they quickly lost following a hack through. The Women did well to regroup to slow the French momentum.

A huge scrum from the French was worrying both for player safety and the way the game was turning. Several players were left dazed and slow to get off the deck. After some quick patch up work by the medical staff, Marine Nationale took advantage of a tap penalty in the Royal Navy's 22 and scored a simple try close to the posts. The score now stood at 17-0 to Marine Nationale.

Just before the half-time whistle, the Royal Navy showed some enterprise with their lineout working well. But for a dropped ball in close quarters the team had set themselves up with a good scoring opportunity that would have calmed the nerves.

The second half began with a scoreless start as both teams stymied each other's attacks. There were huge cheers after big defensive sets from both teams. However, at the 58th minute mark, it was Marine Nationale that scored again with a dominant tackle in midfield from their No.7. They quickly built pressure, turned over the ball and had capitilised with a clear run in.

Marine Nationale didn't have to wait long to score again. A languid looping left-handed pass, a deft offload, and a crash ball on the short side. This score regalvanised the RN who produced their best period of play with the French on the back foot and at odds what to do. C-P and Dixon were central to this and were robust and uncompromising with ball in hand. Some slick hands in midfield orchestrated by Sopp and the women were now winning the territorial battle. 

With 5 minutes to play, Royal Navy managed to score a try through tenacity and sheer determination. The try was scored by new cap Holly Cole after pressure on French No.15 caused her to lose control of the ball allowing Cole to pounce.

The final score was 27-5 in favour of Marine Nationale. The Royal Navy team showed great endeavour in the last 10-15 minutes, but it was not enough to catch up with the French team who were strong across the park. Overall, it was a great match with both teams showing impressive skills and tactics. 'Un bon match' as they say!

Skipper Rose Dixon after a superb individual performance said, "A tough match in classic British weather conditions added extra challenges to the game. We knew the French would have a strong pack and try to break us down the middle, we defended hard and forced them to work for the points they scored. Coming alive in the second half got us points on the board and we are excited to take that energy forward into training this week and the RAF game at the weekend."

Sam Cuff, Head Coach said, "Given the poor conditions and the size and skill of the opposition, I’m pretty happy with how we played. Our defence certainly got a thorough workout but looks to be in a good place for the RAF next week. I was very pleased to see the impact that our bench made on the game, although it gives me quite a few selection headaches ahead of Saturday. I was especially pleased to see Sam Alderson become the most capped women’s player, having given her her debut in my first time in this role. It was good to see all of our new caps out there, especially Holly Cole scoring the try. Lots to work on for next week, but definitely a good step forward on our path to IS."

Words by J Campbell-Baldwin

Images by Lee Crabb and Jarrad Hulm