The late arrival of Newbury caused the kick off to be delayed by 30 mins on an evening blighted by the traffic congestion caused by a crash on the M27. The Academy side took the field on a cold, crisp, winter evening perfect for the side to play Mark Dellers requirement for expansive rugby. With the pitch baring the scars of the Inter Service U21 clash against the Army, only 4 days previous, the expectation was for a better outcome from the Navy side. However, the early signs did not look promising. With only 5 mins gone Newbury scored their opening try after dismissing 2 kickable penalties on the 22m opting instead to kick into the corner and take the lineout. From the second lineout the forwards drove over to score and convert the kick to take a very early lead. With little respite from the relentless pressure form all quarters of the Newbury side and incisive running from their well drilled back line it took a try saving tackle from Andy Vance, just short of the line, to stop the next score. With the ball knocked on the Navy scrum struggled to contain the surge of the men in red. The ball was scrambled into touch by Wayne John giving Newbury another lineout in an attacking position inside the Navy 22m. Almost inevitably the ball was well secured by Newbury and quickly released to the short side and their second try came on 10 mins. With the difficult conversion attempt missed the score moved to 0 – 12. The onslaught continued and every attempt at relieving the pressure was answered by yet more hard running and ironically expansive play. Full of confidence Newbury continued with their tactic of taking the lineout option at the next few penalties despite the potential to take the 3 points on offer. However, the Navy started to spoil well and take their ball. A line out ball thrown over the top by Newbury was spilled forward after the Navy backs started to work in unison to cover the attacking runs and exert some real defensive pressure. With the scrum won a kick deep into the Newbury half saw Josh Daranui and Newbury knock on once again under the pressure posed by the speedster. With the Navy tight 5 now operating as one Newbury were penalised for collapsing the scrum and John Burns kicked the ball into the corner. The lineout was taken well by Sweeney Todd and the Navy forwards had a sound platform to work from and drive forward. Andy Shields broke for the line 10m out and the Navy had their first try, wide on the right, with 25 mins gone. The difficult kick was missed and the score moved to 5 – 12. From the kick off Shields took clean ball and the Navy forwards drove back at Newbury with renewed vigour, confidence and determination. Newbury started to lose their grip on the forwards battle with the ball taken against the head, by the Navy, at the next 2 scrums. With the ball now being spun left and right resulting in 2 scintillating runs by Josh Daranui which was only to be stymied when the ball was spilled forward after contact. It had taken 30 mins but the Navy side had woken up in all areas. The expansive play was supported by strong defence and hard tackling by Andy Vance, Ryan Hayward and Scott Llewellyn. The Navy forwards started to move up the gears and Newbury had to result to pulling down the rampaging Navy maul. The retention of possession and use of space was perceptively better and key to the growing success. With more effective ball coming from the lineout Josh came off his wing to take the ball through the centre and Newbury were now defending on the back foot. With the support of the forwards the attack drove on but the ball did not emerge from the mêlée and the Navy had a scrum. Unfortunately it was the final act for Josh who lay injured and left the field to be replaced by Carl Saunders and Dan Kirk who was replaced by Graham Sloan. The subsequent scrum was well won and the drive took the Navy over the Newbury line but the ball was held up in goal. The remainder of the half saw the Navy apply more and more pressure only to be thwarted by the Newbury defence. The deadlock was broken when John Burns opted to a kick at goal from a penalty to the right of the posts and the score moved to 8 – 12. The first half of a very entertaining game was over. A change in the centre saw Ollie James take the field for Ryan Hayward at the start of the second half. All of the early pressure came from the Navy but Newbury demonstrated that they could still strike back and with slick passing and pace they cut loose and it was desperate cover from Garth Fear and Carl Saunders that prevented what looked to be a certain try. Newbury now started to show some indiscipline and were marched back when they questioned the decision of the referee to award a penalty for holding on in the tackle. The Navy tight 5 appeared to have the measure of the Newbury pack and with the introduction of Rhodri Dicks into the back row, after 10 mins of the second half, a new dimension was added. If anything the navy forwards started to become too predictable with the hard yards made by Paul Cook, picking up from his No 8 position, coming to little. With the ball kicked deep into the Navy half Garth Fear started an impressive counter with the forwards and backs linking well. The Newbury scrum was not allowed to settle and their only relief came from clearance kicks. One of the Newbury props even tried his hand trying to break the Navy defence with a grubber kick. On 25 mins, against the run of play, the Newbury backs broke through but unlike their earlier break their impressive and powerful running resulted in a well worked try. The extra points were converted and the score moved to 8 – 19. It was hard to take following the period of sustained pressure from the Navy inside the Newbury half. It would not have been unreasonable to expect the Navy to be crestfallen and the game to slip away but Ollie Hocker was leading a team who had belief. The Navy's resolve was not diminished and almost immediately they struck back with an impressive drive from the forwards which tied in the Newbury defence and when the ball was spun left Rhodri Dicks was there to force his way over the line. John Burns stepped up to kick the extra points from the position wide on the right and the score moved to 15 – 19 with less than 10 mins to go. On 35 mins the Navy drove Newbury off their ball at a scrum on half way and Ollie Hucker slammed into the Newbury defence. With Carl Saunders pleading for the ball on the left wing the ball was moved left and then right with the forwards and backs going through several, purposeful phases until they bludgeoned their way just short of the line. The ball came out to the right and once again it was Rhodri Dicks who was on hand to score the try and for the first time in the match the Navy had the lead. With another successful conversion made the score moved to 22 – 19. With Ollie James suffering from difficulties with his contact lenses Dave Sibson took the field for in the closing stages of the game. The final minutes saw Newbury, not surprisingly, throwing everything they could at the Navy but their efforts came to nought and the Navy had won a well earned victory. This was a good test for the Academy side and in the Newbury Blues side we have found credible opposition for our development side to play. The win was a Christmas bonus that looked far from attainable at the start of the match which made the result all the sweeter. - Gary 'the hack' Bushell