Army Clinch Title as Royal Navy U23s Fall Short Against RAF
06 December 2023
19:00 @ Basingstoke RFC
The Royal Navy U23s faced a hard-fought battle against the RAF in Basingstoke, ultimately conceding to a defeat that crowned the Army as this year's U23 Inter Service Champions. Despite a valiant second half revival, the Navy fell short. Tries from Hoffman and Elliott in the second half, along with a sole penalty by Davis in the first, proved insufficient as the RAF's superior lineout accuracy and precision with their kicking game tipped the scales in their favor.
Due to a fire at Witney RFC the fixture was postponed and relocated to the Hazelwood Centre. Unable to support the whole event, the match was then moved to north Hampshire. In a highly anticipated clash under the floodlights of Basingstoke RFC, the Royal Navy U23s met their rivals, the RAF, in a showdown that would decide the U23 Inter Service Champions. The atmosphere crackled with excitement as both teams entered the field and blasted out the national anthem. The crowd grew as keen mini-youth from Basingstoke finished their Wednesday night training sessions.
The first half saw a display of dominance by the RAF as they set up shop in the Navy's half. The RAF drew first blood with a strong run from the back of the scrum. Well positioned for a simple a conversion, they deserved their early lead. The Navy took 20 minutes to eventually get a toe-hold in the RAF hald and opted for the points which was confidently slotted over by Davis. However, the RAF swiftly responded, capitalizing on their lineout accuracy to gain crucial territory and possession. A cute grubber with the posts running interference caused the covering defence to fluff their lines and the RAF centre dived on the loose ball to score under the sticks.
As the match progressed with the RAF's precision in executing kicks and their superior accuracy at the breakdown began to tip the scales. Momentum remained with the aviators, aided by strategic charge downs of the Navy's kicks, disrupted Navy rhythm and stifling their attacking opportunities.
It wasn't until the final 20 minutes and chasing two converted scores that the Navy stepped up. Impressive runs from deep in the Navy's half from Number 8 AJ Hussell and scoring opportunities from Goodwin and Elliott created sustained attacking pressure. Tries from Hoffman and Elliott in the second half injected moments of hope for a comeback, but the RAF's composure under pressure ensured they held on to their lead.
The final whistle echoed across the stadium, marking the end of a fiercely contested battle. The Royal Navy U23s fought valiantly but ultimately fell short, conceding victory to the RAF, thus sealing the Army's triumph as this year's U23 Inter Service Champions. Despite the loss, the Navy's commendable efforts and individual moments of brilliance were evident, yet the RAF's clinical execution proved decisive in securing the coveted victory.
After the match RNRU Chair RAdm Steve Moorhouse presented the Brian Weeks Trophy to the ubiquitous AJ Hussell. The trophy is awarded in memory of Cdr Brian Weeks to the best aged group player in the lead up to and including the Inter Service Tournament.
Ben Priddy said after the game, "In spells, we played some really good rugby. We were definitely still in the game right to the final whistle. We kept putting pressure on ourselves when we couldn't execute [our plays] correctly.'
Royal Navy U23s: A Einchcomb, C Goldsmith, C Davis; T Horne, C Kerr; C Duffield, A Watson (C), AJ Hussell (VC); C Attwood, G Prentice, F Elliott, J Hoffman (VC), H Johnson, J Davis, A Goodwin.
Replacements: B Rees, J Turnham, S Brittle, J Donaldson, T Oram, H Mayes, H Saunders, M Cagilaba.
Words by J Campbell-BaldwinImages by Cinnabar Studios.