HMS Queen Elizabeth Suffered the Blues in Norfolk


HMS Queen Elizabeth


Norfolk Blues RFC

Photex huddle under the posts at Lafayette Park.
Travis Turke and James Routley were instrumental in creatively driving the team forward.
Duncan Fraser by the end was a dab hand at kick offs.
A poignant moment to mourn Her Majesty.

HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH (QNLZ) arrived in Norfolk, VA following an unexpected Atlantic Ocean crossing. The Ship’s Rugby Team rolled straight into a first night fixture against a local club, Norfolk Blues RFC. The Fleet Flagship had been at sea for the duration of the Nation’s mourning period and with the first opportunity to honour the passing of the late sovereign, the team wore black armbands to commemorate the Ship’s Sponsor and a minute’s silence was poignantly observed by both teams prior to kick off.

Due to the Ship deploying on completion of summer leave, the team were disadvantaged by a lack of preparation, and this was evident in the early phases of the game. The Blues demonstrated their semi-professional status throughout the opening period and an early foray into QNLZ territory bore fruit as the American’s went over in the right corner following a sustained period of pressure. The try went unconverted but it wasn’t long before the Blues were on the scoreboard again. A quick tap and go following an infringement in the scrum allowed the Blues’ Number 8 to drive over from short range and this time the conversion fortuitously went through having hit the post.

QNLZ grew into the game and with the speed of their back’s play coming to the fore, the visiting team began to find space and territory. Unfortunately for the visitors, this pressure and territory didn’t equate to points and as the first half developed, the lack of preparation began to reappear. This was emphasised when the hosts scored the third try of the half when a QNLZ lineout, on their own 5 metre line, was overthrown and seized by the host’s tail man who powered over from close range. With the Flagship’s team trailing 17-0 at half time, the squad took the opportunity to regroup and gain a much-needed rest before the second period kicked off.

Unfortunately for the British team, the Blues fielded a fresh 15 for the second half which made it a much harder task for QNLZ to overcome. The second half however started much better than the first and following a swift team move that moved from side-line to side-line, the QNLZ team finally got on the scoreboard. With the backs moving the team into scoring range, the forwards took over at the breakdown and following a series of drives by the pack, Hooker Ben Weatherhill made the hard yards to give the team some encouragement that an unlikely turnaround could be possible. Fly Half James Routley scored a fantastic conversion from a tight angle, and at 17-7 the Brits believed they could create a huge shock. Unfortunately, this was not to pass.

As the half continued, the host’s fresh legs and thorough preparation began to show once again, and the game became fractured which allowed the Blues to add to their lead regularly until the referee brought the game to its conclusion with the hosts running out 38-7 winners.

A tough experience for the QNLZ team but one they will take lessons from and build for future fixtures. Player of the match for the British team went to 50-year-old Ratu Matanababa who put an extended shift in for the team when legs started to go.

HMS QE vs Norfolk Blue RFC: David Simmonds, Benjamin Weatherill, Samuel Bennett (C); Benjamin Nixon, Tom Brough; Simon Waweru, Owen Clarricoats, Ethan Seal; Travis Turke, James Routley; Tim Atkin, Ifan Giraud-Jones, Owen Ellis, Ryan Milligan, Duncan Fraser.

Player of the Match: Ratu Matanababa

Words by David Simmonds 
Images by Navy Rugby/ Luke Unaisi