Royal Navy U23s humbled by Exeter Chiefs' Academy




Exeter Chiefs Academy

Captaining the side for the first time, Dan Mason leads by example
No 8, Ben Roberts, was the Navy's second try scorer of the night
The U23s kept on taking the game to the Chiefs as Joe Burton shows
Rory Penfold looks for a way through the Chiefs' defence

The Royal Navy Under 23s squad endured a long night at the hands of the Exeter Chiefs' Academy side which saw them go down 15 – 43.  The score however flattered the Chiefs as they made the Navy side pay for their mistakes and ultimately their skill, speed and fitness was the decisive factor in a well-contested, enjoyable and competitive 80 minutes of rugby.  Having narrowly lost a 2 point game to Cambridge University in their previous fixture the U23s were looking to draw their game back and play some simple rugby but show aggression and tenacity in their play and for large parts of the game they stuck to their game plan.  However any slight lapse in concentration allowed the Chiefs to put them on the back foot as they were relentless in defence and clinical on the attack.

The U23s started strong and took the game to the Chiefs, as would be the theme for the match they saw the lion’s share of the possession but struggled to penetrate the wall of white that stood in front of them.  The first 10 minutes saw the U23s spend the majority of their time in the Chiefs' half; they opted for the corners with penalties and tried to force the Chiefs back but the opposition defence was faultless and the U23s just couldn’t find the space they were looking for.  It took 15 minutes for the first score to be chalked on to the scoreboard, the Chiefs defended well from an U23s attacking lineout, forced an error from the U23s and from the resulting scrum they worked the ball over the line for an early 0 – 5 lead.  The next 10 minutes were precarious for the U23s as the Chiefs began to grow into the game and find their rhythm, the number 10 threatened but for a misplaced pass they would have scored again after he exposed a gap in the U23s back line.  Five minutes later he did it again, this time choosing to go alone, and after breaking the line he stepped inside to touchdown for a converted try, 0 – 12.  The U23s looked to get some points of their own through a penalty but the shot at goal drifted agonisingly wide.  The last 10 minutes of the half ended as it started with the U23s having the vast majority of possession but not capitalising on it.  The Chiefs did not commit to the breakdowns and held their lines, not letting the boys in blue through.  They put another score on the board in the dying minutes of the half as a quality inside pass duped the U23s defence, increasing the gap to 0 – 17.  However with the last kick of the half the U23s put their first points on the board, this time opting for the posts after yet another spell in the Chiefs' red zone.  This time it was scored and the referee bought the first half to a close with the score 3 – 17.

The second half started with a flurry for the Chiefs as they added to their tally almost instantly.  They worked the ball into the corner with a great bit of team play and found their range from the tee to convert, making it 3 – 24 and an uphill battle for the U23s.  Despite the increasing gap in the score the U23s continued to attack and were positive in their approach, persistently taking the game forward; they almost reacted to the early try with a try of their own but 5 metres out they knocked on, a let off for the Chiefs.  They also saw a try scrubbed out by the referee after an obvious double movement.  With players over and a bit more composure from the U23s they could have capitalised on that phase of play.  Nevertheless the signs were positive from the U23s and despite being up against a very strong Academy team, some of whom ply their trade in National One, they were certainly making a go of it.  It took 15 minutes of the second half for the U23s to get over the line and deservedly so.  A quick penalty caught the visitor's defence napping and Ben Mason crashed over for the score, the conversion was scored and the deficit decreased 10 – 24.  The Chiefs began to ring in the replacements and with the changes the pace of the game did not change, like for like they continued their patient play and showed versatility in their ability to score and ran in their 5th and 6th tries of the game, both coming off the back of a maul and building through phases to score, one of which was converted, and with 10 minutes of the game remaining the score was 10 – 36.  The final 10 minutes saw both teams score again, the Chiefs converting theirs and the U23s scoring through Dan Mason who was captaining the team for the first time.  They missed their kick and the game was ended with the Chiefs winning 15 – 43.

The U23s aim was to go out and be aggressive and play their own game and for large parts of it they certainly did that.  They took the game to the Chiefs time and time again and but for a resilient and strong backline they would have had a lot more success.  The Chiefs were clinical going forward and made the U23s pay for any lapses in concentration.  This was a good test for the Navy team, and despite the score, they can take a lot away from it.


1.  Joshua Skinner
2.  Isaac Salt
3.  Tom Hughes
4.  Hayden Wilkinson
5.  Dan Mason (Captain)
6.  Sam Brierley
7.  Campbell Cunningham
8.  Ben Roberts
9.  Nick Burgess
10.  Rory Penfold (Vice Captain)
11.  Gerran Smith
12.  Matthew Bratton
13.  Tristan Trehan
14.  Liam Williams
15.  Adam Gallagher

16.  Rory Bonnick
17.  Kai Allton
18.  Joe Burton
19.  Ben Borman
20.  James Rutherford
21.  Craig Jones
22.  Corey Pulman
23.  Jo Morgan


Words by Sam Sims
Images Royal Navy Rugby Union / © Mark Andrews


Army v Navy - Babcock trophy - Twickenham Stadium - Saturday 29th April 2017
Tickets for the 2017 Army v Navy match will go on sale on Tuesday 1st November 2016. The 2017 match will be the 100th Army v Navy match since the formation of the Royal Navy Rugby Union and the Army Rugby Union in 1906.  Tickets can be purchased from the 1st November 2016 through the Royal Navy Rugby Union #GoNavy