Naval Air Retain Inverdale Trophy

By WO Nic Wilkin Having witnessed Devonport Command undo the efforts of Portsmouth Command in true West Country wintry showery weather, it was the turn once more of the NAC to play the RM, though this time to retain the cup. Portsmouth put up a fair fight against a strengthening Devonport side who eventually ran home with a 30 - 12 point victory. The skies darkened as the clouds loomed overhead and the showers turned to constant drizzle as daylight ebbed prior to the two teams appearing. A slippery and greasy pitch greeted them as they exited the changing rooms, putting a different slant on the style of the NAC's previous matches in the run up to this 'clash of the titans'. A confident, physical and ambitious RM squad emerged first onto the pitch, and why shouldn't they be so? With some 140+ points to their credit in the previous two rounds. Duly folowed by an apprehensive NAC squad who had already been dubbed the 'Underdogs'. A changing but well developed NAC squad had also had an impressive tournamnent scoring over 74 points. With the NAC number one scrum half captaining the Combined Services against the Barbarians that evening and with two other scrum halves deployed, the NAC were forced to call upon the talents of their coach Owen Salmon to fill the gap. Dusting off his boots for the first time in six months he did not disappoint. The RM kicked off and were penalised immediately for being in front of the kicker. Winning the ensuing scrum NAC drove forwards and were soon awarded a penalty in front of the RM posts. 0 -3. The RM restarted and quickly turned over NAC possession. Following a penalty that rebounded of an upright the RM set up a number of rucks and mauls close to the NAC line. The NAC held firm until the RM hooker ran in for an unconverted try. The NAC were also reduced to fourteen men when Chas Channing was Yellow carded for killing the ball. 5 - 3. The rest of the half was fiercely contested and though NAC had reason to feel hard done by when a seemingly good try was disallowed they could have no complains against the two penalties that they conceded within kicking range. The six points ensured that the RM reached half time with an 11 - 3 advantage. Massively heartened from their time in the RM 22 prior to the half time the NAC re-started and thundered into the RM 22. Realising that the RM 'didn't like it up 'em'; the 'Men of Air' drove hard for fifteen minutes, to jubilant cheers of 'regain & retain'. Winning scrums against the head, quick in support to ruck and formidable in the rolling maul, their gallant and monumental efforts were to be rewarded with an unconverted try, 11 - 8. The RM looked at each other in disbelief as the NAC continued to deliver bruising punishment up front. Such was the barrage of Green and Yellow shirts, that the RM were repeatedly forced to defend their own goal line. The referee turned the tables by sending both the RM scrum half and a flanker to the sin bin. With their defence depleted the RM conceded another unconverted try and the lead. 11 - 13. With the crowd on tenderhooks expecting the final whistle the game entered what turned out to be ten minutes of stoppage time. During this time veteran NAC centre burst through the tiring defence for a try 11- 18. Although the RM tried to force extra time during the last three minutes they were unable to and with the final whistle NAC had secured a deserved victory 11 - 18. NAC Captain, Stu Moss, was presented the Inverdale Cup by Surg Capt John Inverdale's daughter, Jendy Weekes who was joined by Navy Rugby President Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, a jubilant CO of HMS Heron, Cdre Palmer, and Chairman of NAC rugby, Cdr Alistair Willis.