Déjà Vu? Rivalry Renewed

Last season the Fleet Air Arm defeated the Royal Marines at Yeovilton before succumbing 25-5 in the final.  This year they have downed the Corps colours in their own backyard of Lympstone 32-17 and no doubt expect the backlash when the two adversaries meet in the 2014 Inverdale Challenge Final at Burnaby Rd this Wednesday, kick off 19:00

The two teams never lack incentive when they play each other.  Both have been the corner stone of the Navy Senior XV over recent seasons and it is nine seasons since the trophy was not lifted by one of them.  Going in to the final those last eight wins have been shared four each so Wednesday’s victor will ease ahead in the recent head to head of final wins.  An added incentive for the Royal Marines is that unlike the Fleet Air Arm they are yet to retain the trophy.

The match earlier this season was, by all accounts, a full on affair.  Having taken an early lead the Fleet Air Arm were able to hold out against a concerted Corps backlash.  As the game intensity rose, so did temperatures and a number of players took a period of time on the touchline courtesy of a referee card.  The Royal Marines felt it was a game they could have and should have won.  They certainly had enough possession to have done so.  For the Fleet Air Arm it was a good away victory and a game in which they were satisfied with their defence but believed that other areas of their game could be improved.  Earlier this month both sides had comfortable away wins.  The Royal Marines travelled to Scotland and beat RN North 44-0 whilst the Fleet Air Arm beat RN East 51-20 at US Portsmouth.

Though both teams are able to call on a number of capped players the games between them have often been decided by others.  Last season Corps skipper Theophanides led from the front and Vakalutukali produced a man of the match performance at flanker.  This season the Fleet Air Arm have again benefitted from the continued good form of Homer in the backrow and Cox at half back.  With the Senior XV camp due to start next week both sides will be able to select from strength and as the recent Navy Cup final showed the Corps have a deep pool from which to choose.

A Royal Marines win would be a good start to 2014, a year which later will see major celebrations to recognise their 350 years.  Of course it is 100 years since the Navy Wing of the Royal Flying Corps became the Royal Naval Air Service before being ‘loaned’ to the RAF as the Fleet Air Arm in 1924 and returned to the Admiralty in time for the Second World War in 1939.  Indeed it was WWII that saw one of the earliest FAA / Royal Marine rivalries when flying ace Stan Orr (Fleet Air Arm) edged Ronnie Hay (Royal Marines) 17-13 as the leader in the number of confirmed ‘strikes’ in the skies.  It seems as if the two sides have a long history of close tussles and Wednesday night is sure to be another full blooded and close encounter.

Images by Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones