Played under a bright blue sky in temperatures approaching 30C the Lions took on Sarno RFC at their home ground at the Carney Park faciltiy in Naples Italy. For new readers the Carney Park venue is unique, it being a U.S. Navy recreational park in the bowl of an extinct volcano. The game was a full 80 minute match, with the Lions taking the opportunity to field some new U.S. Navy and Royal Marine (UK) recruits as well as some seasoned French guests.

The first 30 minutes was very even with both sides providing good defense, the SARNO lineout was more reliable and the scrum evenly matched, the Lions fly half (Stephane Belleguic) executing some excellent tactical kicking thus keeping the Lions' in the right areas. The breakthrough came in the 32nd minute when the Lions talismanic French fly half released Ross Massey (USN) on half way. Ross made a dazzling 50 yard run beating no less than four defenders to put down under the posts. Baz Evans (UK RM) made the conversion.

Half time score: NATO Lions 7 - Sarno RFC 0.

The second half started in similar fashion to the first 40 with both sides trying to gain the upper hand. After some substitutions at half time, the sheer physicality and fitness of the Lion forwards started to tell and they began to dominate at the scrum. On the 62nd minute after another impressive drive from the forwards, the Lions scrum half, Dave Greninger (USN) released his alert French fly half to run in for try number two. Greninger completed the conversion. 10 minutes later the Lions scored their third try in spectacular fashion, again the forwards drove deep into the Sarno 22, when the Lions' own Paul O'Connell "look-alike" John Tolg (USN) delivered the perfectly weighted pass to the on-rushing Lions # 8 Mick Cowie (UK RN), Cowie rumbled through the defense with a bullocking run which culminated in him scoring from 8 yards, the spectacular nature of the try being that the final 5 yards were completed with his shorts around his knees! Dave Greninger was again successful from the tee to take the Lions into a 21-0 lead.

The final 10 minutes were spent exclusively within the Lions' 22 as Sarno went in search of a consolation score, but the Lions defense was resolute with several players making try saving tackles.

Final score: NATO Lions 21 - Sarno RFC 0.

A boisterous third half was enjoyed by both teams with the Lions saying farewell to Prop Gary Stephens (USN) who departs Naples for Diego Garcia in the Pacific.

Match Report by Cdr Mark "Windsor" Davies


This match is part of the ‘You Play We Pay’ initiative.