French take the lead in 'Le Crunch' for first time


RN Senior XV


Marine Nationale

The energy of scrum half Rees was remarkable
Both sides were making crunching tackles, winger, Welling
Fairbrother, in his second match for the Senior XV this season, was Man of the Match
Flanker, Dom Taylor, fends off the French
Replacement Ollie Mason won his first RN Cap

Plymouth Albion RFC played host to the French Navy, in the 13th fixture in the Babcock International competition between the Royal Navy and their French counterparts, the Marine Nationale.  The series was drawn at six wins apiece but with their 19 - 15 victory over the Royal Navy Senior XV the French Navy take the lead with 7 wins.

The Royal Marine Band from HMS Raleigh opened the evening before the teams took to the pitch to be introduced to the dignitaries prior to the playing of the National Anthems.  The event was open to the public and a good crowd turned out to support the Royal Navy team and to enjoy the early evening sunshine.

The French side were the first team to put points on the scoreboard with a penalty kick from their fly half, Gregoire.  After the restart the French were penalised for a knock on and it looked as if the Navy side were about to draw level, but uncharacteristically Jon Humphrey missed the posts with his kick.  But it wasn't long before the Navy Senior XV got into their stride; with some lovely passing, and a cheeky kick chased by winger, Matt Bowden, who touched down into the corner.  The conversion was missed and the Royal Navy took the lead 5 - 3.

The action came thick and fast, with the French pressurising in the Navy half the French fly half dived for the Navy try line but the ball was held up and the referee declared 'no try'.  The Navy conceded another penalty, and Gregoire added another 3 points to the scoreboard 5 - 6.  Both teams played, fast exciting rugby, and the crunching tackles began to take their toll; Navy centre Jack Basher was replaced by no 23 Seta Raumakita following an injury.  So competitive and evenly matched were the teams, the first half passed in a blur of excellent rugby.  At half time the score was Royal Navy 5 - Marine Nationale 6 with all to play for after the break.

To the delight of the home crowd, the Navy took the lead early in the second half, with full back Jon Humphrey returning to form, kicking a penalty, 8 - 6.  However the joy didn't last long as the French Navy No 8, Filiation, found some space with an impressive run down the wing to touch down under the posts.  With another successful kick by Gregoire, the French had the lead 8 - 13.  Then a penalty for an over-enthusiastic tackle by Navy No 8, David Fairbrother, allowed Gregoire to score more points, increasing the French lead 8 - 16.

Fresh legs came on for both sides but it was Fairbrother who made the next score, powering past a number of French defenders before flying over the line for the Navy to close the gap to one point, after Humphrey's successful conversion.  Score 15 - 16.

The clock was counting down but there was still time for the Royal Navy to go ahead; however, the next score, when it came, went again to the visiting French team following another penalty.  With the score line 15 - 19 the home side needed a try to clinch the match but, despite throwing everything they had at it, there wasn't enough time and the French were victorious.

The scoreline reflects how competitive the match was and both sides should be rightly proud of their performances.  RFU referee Luke Pearce from Exeter refereed the match in an outstanding manner, ensuring that the highest standards of discipline and respect were maintained at all times.  The Royal Navy head coach, Ash Coates, will be heartened by the performance of his team, who in general, played a disciplined, spirited game of rugby, scoring two tries to the French one, particularly Man of the Match, David Fairbrother, and scrum half Gareth Rees whose energy and enthusiasm on the pitch are hard to match.  There are lessons to learn, and the Senior XV will have to avoid giving away penalties in the Inter Service competition if they want to retain their title.

Congratulations go to Rich Cadywould, Jack Basher, Ollie Mason and Lewis Cooper, who were all awarded their first representative caps for this match.

Next up for the RNRU Senior XV is the opening match of the Inter Service Babcock Challenge and they travel to RAF Halton on 5 April KO 1500.

Team List: K Mason, B Priddey (c), C Robinson, E Pascoe, M Harvey, B Fox, D Taylor, D Fairbrother, G Rees, R Cadywould, M Bowden, J Basher, E Myers, G Welling, J Humphrey. Replacements (all used): H Collins, M Owen, G Evans, O Mason, L Cooper, C Moore, N Huntley, S Raumakita.  

Images Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton and Mark Andrews