All Square at St Austell

28 February 2024

19:30 @ St Austell

Senior Men XV


Cornwall RFU

The RNRU made the short trip down the A390 from their training Camp at HMS Raleigh to St Austell for their 2nd game in a week within the Dutchy. After a stern test against professional side Cornish Pirates last week, it was at the near capacity Tregorrick Park that the Navy took on a new look Cornwall RFC side preparing for their County Championship campaign. With both sides fielding strong starting 15’s and a packed bench it was always going to be an opportunity for the coaches to look at individuals as well as testing combinations.

After a minutes’ applause for local stalwart and referee, Fred Woods, it was the familiar face of referee Kevin Williams that got play under way. Following some early kicking exchanges and a stunning display of slick hands from Cornwall, especially ex Bath and Fiji centre Josh Matavesi, it was the Navy that applied the first telling pressure with a deft 50 - 22. From the resulting line out the ball was spilled with the line in sight – understandably given the damp conditions. The resulting scrum gave the Navy pack an opportunity to exert some scrum dominance and while Cornwall tried to pass their way out of their own 22, it was Navy winger, Mne Kane Teear-Bourge, that was alive to the opportunity of an interception. After a slight juggle he gained control and touched down for the first points of the game. Full back POAET Ben Chambers added the extras for a well-deserved 0-7 lead after 9 minutes.

Going behind seemed to spark Cornwall into action who immediately began knocking on the Navy door from the kick off. The pressure eventually told on the Navy defence resulting in a yellow card for Hooker AET Jack Wright. Cornwall attempted to tighten the screw against the 14 men of the Navy, and after first being held up over the line, they finally broke through the defence from 20 meters out. Some classy passing and hard running saw the stretched Navy defence finally run out of men and Cornwall wing Harry Larkins crossed the line for the Duchy’s first points. Fullback Matthew Shepherd made sure of the full seven with a superbly struck conversion from the left touchline.

Cornwall were hungry to make their one-man advantage pay and continued to camp in the Navy half. After a charged down kick on the RN 10m line Cornwall continued to heap pressure on the RN defence until hooker Louis Powell slipped through a gap to score 10m in from the left touchline. Shepherd was unable to convert this time, leaving the Navy within 5.

This sparked the RNRU into action. Buoyed by the return of their hooker from the sin bin, they were awarded a penalty when Cornwall kicked the ball through a scrappy ruck in front of the posts. Captain, POET Kye Beasley, surprised many in the packed-out crowd by turning down a nailed on 3 points and instead pointing to the corner. But his confidence in his forward pack was well founded as a well organised rolling maul resulted in hooker Jack Wright going over to level the scores and make amends for his 10-minute sabbatical. The kick was missed and both sides entered the last 10 minutes of the half honours even. That was until, with Cornwall perhaps starting to think of their half time oranges, the Royal Navy kicked through to the Cornwall 5m line and followed up with sustained pressure that resulted in a line out 15m out to the men in blue. A dominant catch and drive saw Wright go over for his second try and the Navy’s 3rd. Chambers once again added the extras as the Navy headed down the tunnel 12 - 19 up.

The break was good for Cornwall. With both Dave Pascoe (Navy) and Ex England International Graham Dawe (Cornwall) ringing the changes, it was Cornwall that seemed to adapt better. They were camped in the Navy half for much of the third quarter until the deadlock was finally broken by CRFU No2 Powell following a powerful driving maul. His second try allowed him to keep pace with his opposite number for bragging rights. Shepherd again added the 2 to draw level at 19 - 19. More changes ensued but it was again the men in black and gold that maintained their momentum with a beautifully cut line that saw No8 Brendon Rowley dot down under the posts from 20 out. Shepherd was accurate from the tee again and Cornwall entered the final quarter 26-19 up and seemingly with the wind in their sails.

With 8 minutes left on the clock the match announcer declared Cornwall’s outstanding No7 Cam Taylor as man of the match and many of the supporters began to prepare for a Cornwall victory. But the Navy had their own script, and it was their own MoTM contender Teear-Bourge that finished off a fine move down the right-hand side, cutting through the final defenders to bring the Navy within 2 points. Danny Ronald made sure from the tee and the Navy entered the final nail-biting minutes all square at 26 - 26.

And they could have sealed the win too after a strong break down the left wing by RN full back Shepherd and finisher Mne Jack Ryder. But it wasn’t to be and perhaps fittingly, Ref Williams blew his whistle and pointed to the tunnel to bring the enthralling encounter to an end with both teams sharing the spoils. The crowd started to file out into the cool Cornish night happy that they had witnessed a tightly contested encounter and that neither team had lost. Both teams will have more crucial fixtures to come in the Bill Beaumont Cup and Babcock Inter-services respectively – but both outfits will have learned a great deal about their respective squads with plenty catching the selectors eye, and the spectators enjoyed and extremely hard-fought match between two teams looking to play exciting rugby - despite the conditions.

The Senior Men play Exeter Chiefs on Wednesday, 6 March, KO 1930. Entry is free with a MoD 90 ID card, so we’ll see you at Sandy Park right?

Senior Men: Kye Beasley (C), Jack Wright, Dom Cleverley; Dan McAdams, Will Scott; George Wagstaff, Ben Mallett, Chris Mills; Jay Toogood Dan Rutter, Kristan Dobson, Jesse Lowe, Adam King, Kane Teear-Bourge, Ben Chambers.

Replacements: Connor Thurgood, Russell Orr Burns, Harry Wright, Tam Lindsay, Lewis Sutton, AJ Hussell, Evan Williams, Robbie Hume, Danny Ronald, Jack Ryder, Tom Briggs, Matt Hall, Craig Duncan.

Words by Neil Howe

Images by Simon Bryant