Big win in Wales


Navy U23 XV


Cardiff Metropolitan University

Jesse Lowe with a strong carry and fend to beat the defender.
A powerful run from Oliver Thomas.
Man of the match, Christian Cunningham-Wood breaks through contact.
Winger Tom Hall in full flight.
Team captain, Jake Haley.

A trip across the Welsh border to face a combination of the Cardiff Metropolitan University teams provided the ideal opportunity for team training in Brecon before the match in Cardiff.  The training seemed to pay off and the Royal Navy Under 23s came away victorious.

Cardiff Metropolitan University fields 10 teams each week including the first XV which plays in the Welsh Championship (currently placed 4th) playing against world famous teams like Pontypool and Neath. It has also played regularly in the finals of the British University & College Sport rugby competition. They are currently ranked the top university for rugby in the UK. For those more mature readers amongst us they were previously known as University of Wales in Cardiff and have produced many internationals and British Lions down the years.

For this fixture Cardiff were asked to select a team commensurate with the standards and skills of the developing Navy side where both sides had the opportunity to win and enjoy what they achieved. They duly selected a group of players from the 3rd, 4th and 5th teams.

The game was played on a G4 pitch which meant that it was going to be fast. Immediately after the kick off the students coughed up the ball at the first ruck and the Navy forwards drove deep into the opposition's 22 causing panic among the defenders enabling Prop (1) Dom Cleverley to score the first try after 35 seconds which was converted by team captain (15) Jake Hanley. Cardiff 0 – RN 7.

At the restart the Navy applied pressure causing the students to give away a silly high tackle penalty which was relieved by a kick to touch on the half way line. After winning the line out the Navy went through the phases with some very nice inter play between forwards and backs. Once again the students transgressed giving away a penalty on their 5 metre line. Hanley took the points on offer. Cardiff 0 – RN 10. Just over 6 minutes played.

Shortly after the restart the first scrum of the game took place with the Navy dominant winning the ball cleanly giving the scrum half (9) Callum Lewis an easy ride with time to distribute the ball to the back. Hanley made a break down the left wing causing the students to give another penalty away resulting in a kick to touch, followed by a lineout which the Navy won again driving deep into the student's 22 and resulting in Lock (5) Oliver Thomas crossing the line to score the Navy’s 2nd try, ably converted by Hanley. Twelve minutes gone and the Navy lead 17-0.

Within two minutes the Navy were on the attack again with a 60 metre run by winger (14) Tom Hall causing mayhem in the students defence, after a short interchange of support play between the backs, Inside Centre (12) Chris Mills scored a try under the posts. This was excellent rugby with both forwards and backs working well together, well worth the admission fee. Cardiff 0 – RN 22. 15 minutes played.

On the 19th minute Outside Centre (13) Jesse Lowe transgressed with a leading forearm. The referee considered this deserved a ten minute rest to contemplate how unfair life was. Not to be outdone the Cardiff No8 was despatched to the side line for 10 minutes for foul play.

Normal service was quickly resumed with the Navy applying pressure in the Cardiff 22 which after a line out on the opposition 5 metre line and a long rolling maul saw Lock(4) Christian Cunningham-Wood cross the white wash for the Navy’s 4th try converted by Hanley. Cardiff 0 – RN 29. 27 minutes played.

The period up to half time was one of broken play with plenty of endeavour but too many balls knocked on and forward passes. Cardiff for a short period of time were able to put pressure on the Navy defence, winning a lineout on the Navy 5 metre line. The resulting rolling maul was nicely held up by the Navy who relieved the pressure. During this time (21) Keaton Leyland-Jones had entered the fray.

Half Time Cardiff 0 – Royal Navy 29.

During half time the Navy coaches rang the changes with Kai Alton (3) replaced by (18) Tam Lyndsey, Cleverley replaced by (17) Samuel Creak, Lewis for (23) Josh Belcher and (10) Alexander Grant by (26) Cameron Gladwin. Within 4 minutes of the start of the second half the Navy went further ahead with a try from Leyland-Jones after a break down the right wing by Hanley and an offload from Thomas. Again converted by Hanley. Cardiff 0 – RN 36.

There followed a relatively short period of play with Cardiff applying pressure to the Navy defence with Cunningham-Wood producing a try-saving tackle on the Navy line.  However they were rewarded for their efforts when the No8 picked up from the back of an attacking scrum and crashed over to score. Conversion missed. Cardiff 5 – RN 36. 49 minutes played.

Cardiff sensing an advantage dominated the next five minutes with some adventurous interplay involving both forwards and backs. The Royal Navy reacted well with the back row evident throughout at the breakdown slowing the ball down and stemming the students attack, however after 53 minutes the students were reward for their efforts with a forwards try scored by No2. Converted to make the score Cardiff 12 – RN 36.

The Navy made further changes with Sam Powell (19) replacing Cunningham-Wood at Lock, Mosh Aziz (20) replacing Thomas also at Lock, Conner Bick (16) for David Scoot (2) and finally Cameron Cumming (25) for Sam Kretzschmar (11). After so many changes in such a short space of time it was not surprising that the Navy struggled to regain their momentum.  However with some good work from the forwards securing the ball and getting back on the front foot the Navy were able to exploit the gaps as the students tired, scoring a further two converted tries. The first by Belcher with a sniping dive from a ruck on the Cardiff line. The second scored by Creak after three phases of play moving from right to left with strong running from Mills at 12 and quick support from the forwards. Final score Cardiff Met 12 – Royal Navy 50.

What a difference 10 days make, the Navy were confident, quick witted and enthusiastic in everything they did, admittedly they were allowed to play their game but that should not detract from all they achieved. You know it’s been a good day at the office when the TSG are smiling, with the added bonus of a run ashore in Cardiff on Sunday evening before re-joining their ships and establishments on Monday.

This was an excellent fixture for the RNRU U23s and will hopefully become a regular feature in the U23 season. It would have been easy for Cardiff to load their side with much better players, however they didn’t and that shows their true sportsmanship.

Next up for the U23s is an away fixture at Richmond against London Scottish Academy. This game under lights will challenge the Navy squad as most of the opposition will be looking for advancement and professional contracts.

Head Coach John Court commented after the game "After a very testing fixture against Bristol University it was pleasing to see the reaction this weekend. We had 2 great days training in Brecon working on our fundamentals and all the lads responded well. It was also pleasing to see new players taking their opportunity and giving it their all. Cardiff Met are a great well run side and we look forward to next year’s fixture."

RNRU Chairman, Captain Andy Kellett MBE RN, was at the match to watch the new crop of players and said "It is always great to see so many young players stepping forward and taking their first steps into representative rugby. Some will be more successful than others but the key is to offer opportunity for any player who demonstrates both the talent and more importantly the right attitude to make it at both U23 and potentially Senior XV rugby. For those who may not make it this year there is always a pathway throughout their career to fulfil their potential across both Community and Representative rugby.  I wish them all the best of luck and I will see them throughout the season."

RU U23 Team; 1 Dom Cleverley, 2 David Scoot, 3 Kai Alton, 4 Christian Cunningham-Wood, 5 Oliver Thomas, 6 Adam White, 7 Drew Kinsey, 8 Paddy McGrath, 9 Callum Lewis, 10 Alexander Grant, 11 Sam Kretzschmar, 12 Chris Mills, 13 Jesse Lowe, 14 Tom Hall, 15 Jake Hanley (Capt). Finishers 16 Conner Bick, 17 Samuel Creak, 18 Tam Lyndsey, 19 Sam Powell, 20 Moshin Aziz, 21 Keaton Leyland-Jones, 22 Kyle Ashcroft, 23 Josh Belcher, 24 Kieron Manson, 25 Cameron Cumming, 26 Cameron Gladwin.

RNRU U23 TSG: Asst DOR Aidan Riley, Head Coach John Court, Andy Vance (Backs), Loz Salisbury (Fwds), Pony Moore (Defence), Team Manager Rob Jones and Team Physio Kila O’Boyle. 

Words: P. Pongo
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton