Scintillating Season Opener
17 January 2024
19:00 @ Havant RFC
Senior Women XV34
Hands were in pockets and hats were on heads, on what was a freezing Wednesday night, as spectators filled the Havant stands to watch the Navy Women take on the Dolphins in their first match of the season.
Navy Women brought the physicality, both in defence and attack, and they didn’t give Havant any breathing room in the first half. It wasn’t even five minutes before the Navy opened the scoring, as winger Holly Cole got the ball in space, and made a dart down the right wing to score in the corner, 0-5.
It took another twenty minutes before there was another score on the board, which, given Havant were pinned in their 22 for the whole twenty minutes, perhaps the Navy would’ve enjoyed a try a little sooner. However, Havant finally gave in, and after some good movement across the pitch to draw in defenders, and a few offloads in the tackle, Captain Rose Dixon gathered the ball and with a step and go was able to create some space, and dive for the line, scoring the second try of the match, 0-12.
A try from the captain built even more energy in the Navy team, and they managed to find another gear. Havant were starting to break under the pressure and began falling off tackles, giving the Navy metre after metre. The Navy charged their way up the pitch and scored a try again in the right-hand corner, through flanker and Vice-Captain Rowan Sinclair, 0 - 17.
It was a great first half from the Navy with loads of positives, from their physicality and front up runners in attack, to their relentless tackling, hitting Havant back in every tackle. However, given they were in the Havant half, with ball in hand, for practically the entire forty minutes, they should have ended the game there and then. But with just a few fixes, like sharpening up their decision making, and not forcing the final pass, they could blow the Havant Dolphins back down the hill and boast an incredible first win of the season.
The Navy kicked off the second half, and it would seem the few issues they were having in the first half were addressed by the coaches, because they came out all guns blazing.Regathering possession deep in the Havant 22, the Navy were able to apply the pressure and kept turning the screw once again. It wasn’t long before the Havant defence caved, and with an almost instant impact off the bench, substitute Olly Fafita crashed up the middle of the park to score only ten minutes into the second half, 0-22.
Havant had their first major attack in the Navy half, but the Navy proved they could defend just as well as they attack, and while hitting Havant back once again in every tackle, they weathered a non-stop Havant attack that took the game into the final quarter. The Navy must’ve gotten bored of defending, because as soon as they got the ball back, they took no time at all to get down the other end of the pitch, and with an expertly placed chip and chase, replacement Esher Monki was able to regather right on the 5-metre line, and dot the ball down to score, 0-29.
Less than 5 minutes later the Navy were straight back on the Havant try line, and with yet another strong carry to break through two defenders, substitute Olly Fafita was able to get her brace and score the Navy’s sixth try, 0-34. However, they couldn’t quite hang on to the nil; one final break from Havant number 14 halfway up the pitch, put Havant in an attacking position, and they weren’t going to let this final opportunity go astray, scoring with a pick and go in the middle of the park to see out the game, and as the conversion was kicked, the final whistle was blown, 7-34.
The Navy fixed their few problems from the first half and put the game to bed early after the restart with a really strong performance, both in defence and attack. And with many development girls joining the squad, and many senior players playing out of position, you can only imagine what they’ll achieve as the season goes on. Captain Rose Dixon was “over the moon” with the result, stating how proud she was, especially with the new girls that stepped up to the plate. Putting the win down to “the coaching staff and the whole team”, and this would’ve been a huge confidence boost going into the rest of the season. Coach Sarah Jenkins was equally proud, and with a coaching staff of strong characters behind her, the season is looking very exciting.
For the match highlights follow the BFBS link.
The Royal Navy Women take on the British Army at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday 4 May, tickets are available here.
Snr Women: A Baker*, K Forry, L Honeybell; H Underwood, Y Mealy; R Dilmore, R Sinclair (VC), L Swain; R Dixon (C), C Render, D Lumsden, C Goodwin, S Mclaughlin, H Cole, A Ashby.
Replacements: T Davidson, O Fafita, E Thorpe, S Hill, G Davidson*, E Monki*, F Mullet*
*Denotes new to Navy Rugby
Words by Archie Carter-HumphriesImages by Keith Woodland