Navy Backrow Set Foundations for UKAF Victory

The United Kingdom Armed Forces U23 XV selected for the trial match against Ealing Traifinders
Scott Ashely with the Royal Navy contingent of Chris Robinson, Rhys Dimmock-Williams, Gareth John Rees, Ben Roberts, Ben Watson, Lewis Cooper, Joe Bruton, Mark Dowds and James Griggs
Gareth John Rees, with Ben Roberts and Chris Robinson in support, takes the game to Ealing Trailfinders
Ben Watson proved to be a handful with his strong running in the loose
James Griggs made the most of limited opportunity when he was on the field
Lewis Cooper continued the good form he showed for the Senior XV against Cambridge University
Rhys Dimmock-Williams was able to showcase his attacking flair from fullback

A topsy-turvy game saw the UKAF U23 XV end up victorious, 13-21 in their trial match against a committed Ealing Trailfinders side.  Trial matches are always slightly disjointed due to the need to ensure every player gets some game time, but the Royal Navy backrow trio of Ben Watson, Ben Roberts and Lewis Cooper remained unchanged and it was their work at the breakdown and through making the hard yards that laid the foundations for a deserved UKAF victory.  With all Navy players giving a good showing of themselves there should be a strong dark blue representation in the UKAF side that plays Oxbridge before the Army Navy Match on 30th April.

The Royal Navy provided ten players to the UKAF trial, although Ollie Mason was withdrawn on the day of the match due to a wrist injury.  Joining the backrow trio were fullback, Rhys Dimmock-Williams, centre, James Griggs, scrum half, Gareth John Rees and front row trio of Joe Burton, Mark Dowds and Chris Robinson. A couple of other Navy players, who were forced to miss the game due to operational commitments, have been included in UKAF U23 XV Head Coach, Billy May’s, initial selection.

Having gone toe to toe against each other in November’s Inter Service tournament the UKAF coaching staff, including for this first match Major Scott Ashley RM, will have been pleased at how quickly the combined team settled in to their chosen playing patterns.  The one area of concern will have been the number of penalties conceded for offside, one of which saw Rees being despatched to the sin bin for a team offence.  However, when on the pitch he did enough to ensure his name will be firmly in the Selector’s thoughts when the final squad is selected.

Another who stood out, and certainly has continued to develop since before Christmas, was hooker Mark Dowds.  The improvement to his technical work, particularly his lineout, stood out and already having an excellent open field game, allied with a newly controlled temperament, he is producing some form that is proving difficult to ignore.

Mark Dowds will be happy to pack downside along his Navy colleagues, Chris Robinson and Joe Burton who have both also made the selection.  Two  of Sunday’s backrow are also selected, though Ben Watson, is included as a prop with his backrow place being taken by fellow Royal Navy U23XV, Tristan Trehan.  Ben Roberts was unlucky to miss out but is selected as a non travelling reserve.

In the backs free running fullback Rhys Dimmock-Williams has been included in the selected 23, having again impressed against Ealing Trailfinders.  Though strong running centre, James Griggs, was unable to force himself in to the selected twenty three, with centre being a particularly strong position this year.  Dimmock-Williams is joined in the selected 23 by scrum halves Calum Cone and Gareth John Rees with Greg Loydall also being selected.

Of course the final selection will not be able to be confirmed until much nearer the end of season match where one or two may have played themselves in to the Senior XV and others may lose out to operational demands in what continues to be a busy tempo for the Fleet and Royal Marines.  What is for sure is that the Royal Navy U23 XV, the current Inter Service champions, will have a strong representation in the UKAF side that runs out at Twickenham seeking to double up on last season’s victory.

The full initial selection of RNRU players made by UKAF U23 is as follows:
Selected 23: Chris Robinson, Mark Dowds, Joe Burton, Ben Watson, Lewis Cooper, Tristan Trehan, Gareth John Rees, Calum Cone, Greg Loydall and Rhys Dimmock-Williams

Non travelling reserves: Ben Roberts, James Griggs, Jack Basher

Images by Alligin Photography / © John Walton