Royal Navy make big impact in Remembrance Rugby Match


UK Armed Forces Men


Bristol Bears

On the attack, Rees
Another superb kick from Huntley
Gareth Rees played at scrum half
Always at the centre of the action, Dave Fairbrother and Jarrard Hayler
Humphrey came on in the second half
Man of the Match Corporal Dave Fairbrother

On the Centenary of the end of WW1, it was most appropriate this match was played in perfect conditions for running rugby, the pitch looked magnificent on a dry, calm and unseasonably warm evening.  Five experienced RN players were included in the United Kingdom Armed Forces match day squad for this prestigious fixture.

Starting were Jarrard Hayler, Dave Fairbrother, Gareth Rees and Nathan Huntley forming the spine of a strong Armed Forces team, Jonathan Humphrey was on the bench.  Bristol Bears A was made up of Academy players supplemented with several local players, RN rugby legend Bob Armstrong was in the crowd watching his son Jake prop for Bristol Bears A.

Bristol kicked off, early exchanges set the tone of the match with both sides committed to open, running rugby moving the ball across the pitch waiting for an opening to appear.  UKAF made a promising break with forwards and backs combining moving the ball right to left across the pitch before being forced into touch on Bears 5m line.  At the lineout Dave Fairbrother stole the ball and ran down the blindside to score in the corner, not converted. 5 mins UKAF 5 Bears 0

Bristol came back strong with their loosehead breaking into the UKAF 22, he was tackled just short of the line, UKAF conceded a penalty with Bears going for touch, the subsequent lineout was won by UKAF and cleared up to just short of halfway.  UKAF continued to press for another score spending several minutes in the Bears 22 until a UKAF penalty for a high tackle relieved the pressure.  Once again Dave Fairbrother stole the ball at the lineout further pressure led to a scrum in Bears half with Gareth Rees setting off on a superb blindside run before being forced into touch just short of the line.

Play continued to ebb and flow with both sides seeing plenty of the ball and making territory, on 20 mins Bears ran a crossfield move which led to an unconverted try in the corner by Sam Graham.  UKAF 5 Bears 5

Bears continued to probe in the UKAF half until a maul 10m from UKAF line was held up, from the ensuing scrum UKAF tried to run the ball instead giving away a penalty for holding on, this time Bears successfully converted through Tiff Eden. UKAF 5 Bears 8

On 33 mins Bears found themselves back in the UKAF 22, once again Bears Tiff Eden successfully converted another holding on penalty. UKAF 5 Bears 11

From the kick off, UKAF won a scrum and after eight phases of pick and go went wide on the blindside where Bears conceded a penalty for offside.  Gareth Rees took a quick tap with Bears 5 tackling him whilst offside, this led to Referee Sara Cox (RFU) showing a Yellow Card.  From the lineout UKAF probed close to the Bears line, the ball was cleared into UKAF half where the UKAF Fullback knocked on.  With two minutes to go before the break Bears won a scrum penalty, the kick at goal was missed, from the UKAF 22 dropout Bears ran the ball back superbly creating an overlap for Reiss Cullen to score near the posts which was converted by Tiff Eden on the stroke of half time.


With Bears still down to 14 men, UKAF tried to gain foothold in the Bears half only for them to kick ahead and see the Bears break away up to UKAF 22 before knocking on.  On 45mins Bears gave away a penalty just inside their own half which UKAF kicked to within 10m of Bears line, quick ball from the lineout led to a clear break by UKAF's Rob Bell to score under the posts, successfully converted by RN's Nathan Huntley.  UKAF 12 Bears 18

The next five minutes saw UKAF exert prolonged pressure searching for another score, this was rewarded with a penalty on the Bears 22 directly in front of the posts, successfully converted by Nathan Huntley.  UKAF 15 Bears 18

On 55 minutes, the first UKAF substitutions saw Gareth Rees leave the field and Jonathan Humphrey come on as one of the replacements.  It was the Bears turn to have a period of possession resulting in a midfield penalty, a quick tap caught the UKAF defence in disarray allowing the Bears Brendan Petite to score an unconverted try. UKAF 15 Bears 23

Both sides were beginning to feel the effects of quick running rugby as mistakes by both sides led to more set plays with both sides missing difficult kicks at goal.  Jarrard Hayler was replaced on 65 minutes, having given his all in the back row,  as both sides emptied their benches Bears went down to 14 players when cramp led to another player leaving the field.

On 76 minutes Bears pressure forced UKAF to give away another penalty on their own 22 in the midfield, a quick tap made in-roads with the last ditch defence by UKAF keeping the Bears out but resulting in a penalty advantage for offside.  Bears went cross field and scored through Brendan Petite with Louis Martin successfully converting.  UKAF 15 Bears 30

With time running out UKAF were on the back foot just inside their own half when Toby Mann intercepted a pass and ran in to score a try converted by Jonathan Humphrey.  This drew the loudest cheer of the evening and proved to be a fitting finale to a cracking game of rugby played with the commitment and spirit our Armed Forces are renowned by.


Man of the Match was the Royal Navy's Royal Marine Corporal Dave Fairbrother who was at the heart of many storming runs, often breaking out of tackles and getting over the gain line, making ferocious tackles and stealing lineout ball.  Speaking after the game he said how honoured he was to be part of the UKAF team and that he was still buzzing from the experience, saying it was on par with the annual Twickenham fixture against the Army.

The match was a fitting way to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, and all proceeds from the evening were donated to the Royal British Legion.

Team list: 1. Cpl D Manning RAF 2. Flt Lt S Philpott RAF 3. Cpl G Smith Army 4. LCpl K Smith Army 5. Cpl J McNally RAF 6. LCpl J Hayler RN 7. Flt Lt R Bell (team captain) RAF 8. Cpl D Fairbrother RN 9. AB(MW) G Res RN 10. Mne N Huntley RN 11. Cpl T Mann RAF 12. Cpl L Riddell RAF 13. Sig J Davetinavalu Army 14. Flt Lt L Owen RAF 15. Fg Off S Randle RAF
Replacements 16. Sgt M Dyer 17. SAC M Harris RAF 18. LCpl C Budgen Army 19. Sgt M Brougham RAF 20. LCpl D Johnson RAF 21. Cpl M Evans Army 22. Sig M Clarke RAF 23. LAET J Humphrey RN 24 SAC R MacDougall RAF

Words: Dave Philpot
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton