A hard test for the Senior XV at London Irish
RN Senior XV
London Irish Academy
The Royal Navy Rugby Union Senior XV travelled to Sunbury-on-Thames for a late notice match following cancellation of their previous fixture against Richmond RFC due to a water logged pitch. The contest saw the Navy Rugby team taking on the might of a London Irish A side accustomed to playing rugby at the highest level.
Under the glare of the Hazelwood floodlights the Royal Navy Rugby Union Senior XV stepped onto the pitch as visitors and were to prove their ability to challenge the London Irish side. Undaunted at the prospect of playing an elite side away the Royal Navy Rugby team played with palpable resolve. It was to be a tough test but one which the team took on with brutal commitment to make every supporter proud and which will no doubt pay dividends in the forthcoming Inter-Service encounters. As soon as the game started it was obvious for all to see that every second of the eighty minutes would test the Navy Rugby team in containing the marauding home-team.
Navy Rugby kicked off. London Irish returned a high up-and-under with the visitors efficiently retaining the ball. Turn over ball and the London Irish centres probed into the visitors' half only to be thwarted by an impervious Navy Rugby team defence resulting in a penalty for the visitors. Fly-half, Marine Nathan Huntley, safely kicked to touch. Navy Rugby’s hooker, and team captain, LPT Ben Priddey expertly threw in but the first scrum went to the home-team which, after a reset, London Irish shipped the ball out to their inside centre who was brought down by a crunching tackle made by Huntley. A grubber kick led to a foray into Navy Rugby’s 22 and a darting run from the London Irish scrum half resulted in the first try of the game.
Following Navy Rugby’s restart, London Irish returned the ball by kicking high into the night sky but Navy Rugby returned the ball the same way deep into the home-team's half. The to-and-fro continued until the ball dropped into the safe hands of Air Engineering Technician Tom Notman who kicked the ball into touch well inside the home team's half.
From a Navy Rugby line-out a penalty was awarded to the visitors and the Navy Rugby’s scrum-half, AB(MW) Gareth Rees, took it quickly resulting in a dynamic passage of play of maul and ruck as Navy Rugby edged further towards the London Irish try line, but hope of a score was dashed as the ball was turned over. The London Irish scrum-half kicked and a quick line-out followed keeping the pressure on the visitors’ stoic defence. London Irish scored a try in the corner which was not converted.
Following the restart London Irish returned the ball by kicking, which resulted in a rare Navy Rugby knock forward leading to a scrum for the home-team. The home-side's open-side flanker grabbed the opportunity to dive over for a try which was converted. After 14 minutes Navy Rugby faced a score-line of 19 -0 which did not do justice to their efforts to hold back the tide of their elite opponents’ play.
Undaunted and receiving vocal encouragement from the touch-line the visitors restarted the game and under pressure the London Irish team knocked-on. Navy Rugby’s loose-head prop, Air Engineering Technician Chris Warner, went down injured but soon re-joined the fray. Again Navy Rugby was awarded a penalty and took it quickly to surge into the home team's half. Turn-over ball for London Irish only resulted in the ball returning safely into the possession of the Navy Rugby full-back, Marine Pat Coy. The ball went into touch and a London Irish line-out close to the visitor’s try line resulted in a scramble of loose-play and the home-team drove across the line to score another 5 points which was converted.
A change in the front-row saw Leading Air Engineering Technician Kye Beasley coming on for Warner and Navy Rugby restarted the game. London Irish attempted a rolling maul but was penalised when the ball went to ground. Navy Rugby safely kicked to touch, however, the line-out resulted in the London Irish possession but Navy Rugby’s team captain put in a crunching tackle. A scrum to the visitors followed by a scrum to the home-team who passed out wide only to be stopped by yet another crunching tackle by Navy Rugby’s Number 13, Marine Seta Raumakita. The visitors were forced to defend their try line and did so with valiant resilience which resulted in the London Irish forwards being held-up under Navy Rugby’s posts. 26 minutes into the game and a scrum London Irish put-in. Navy Rugby kept up the pressure and again the home-team was penalised. Navy Rugby kicked to touch at the half-way line. From the line-out Huntley chipped the ball into the home-team’s 22 but the ball scudded back. Yet again Navy Rugby fired the ball towards the London Irish’s half resulting in a Navy Rugby line-out and a rolling maul. The touch line was raucous in its support as Navy Rugby’s pack pushed on to within a few metres from the home-team's try line. Rees went over to score and put 5 points on the board for the visiting team - a real testament to the Royal Navy Rugby Union Senior XV’s dogged determination both in defence and attack.
After half an hour of highly-entertaining rugby the score stood at 26 - 5.
A London Irish restart resulted in a home-side line-out on the half-way line and Navy Rugby continued to defend with the utmost effort - every man stepping-up to the mark to hold back the relentless home-team. London Irish was awarded a penalty and kicked to touch which provided a platform to score a converted try. Navy Rugby restarted close to the half-time whistle resulting in a London Irish scrum and a passage of broken play. The home-team went over between the posts for a converted try (40 - 5 at half-time).
The game recommenced and within the first moments of the second-half Navy Rugby was awarded yet another penalty which resulted in the ball being safely kicked into touch. The home team shipped the ball out wide from a scrum and scored in the corner for an unconverted try. London Irish received the ball from the restart and a scrum followed. A big drive from the home team saw a further try being scored and followed again a few minutes later by another. The game was punctuated once more by Navy Rugby being awarded a penalty. A series of changes for Navy Rugby continued with Air Engineering Technician Jon Humphrey on for Coy. London Irish knocked-on and Naval Airman Cory Moore came on for Navy Rugby’s try scorer, Rees, at scrum-half.
At 60 minutes the visitors were awarded another penalty and kicked to touch. Navy Rugby made ground but were penalised and London Irish kicked to touch. Further changes with Sergeant Gaz Evans and Musician Harrison Marsh on in the pack and Midshipman Leo Hood making an appearance in the back line. An unconverted London Irish try pushed the scoreboard onto 60 - 5 but after the restart Navy Rugby continued to fight their corner and were awarded another penalty. With ten minutes to go Air Engineering Technician Greg Loydall came on and so at 70 minutes the whole team had made it onto the pitch with each playing an important part in the game.
With an eye on the Inter Services clashes to come, the Royal Navy Rugby Union Senior XV’s coaching team took the opportunity to maximise the learning benefit for every Navy Rugby player. London Irish scored at 73 minutes and again at 77 minutes. Final score 72 - 5. Taking on the London Irish A side, the Navy knew they were in for a tough game. It was exactly the test they needed ahead of their forthcoming Inter Service games against the RAF and the Army. A hard fought battle, the night at Hazelwood had proven to be an invaluable learning experience for the Royal Navy team as well as a herculean performance for of each and every team member should be proud.
Team: AET C Warner, LPT B Priddey (team captain), ETWE C Frogley, Capt O Mason RM, AET S Makepeace, ABCIS(SM) M Harvey, LCpl J Hayler, Capt B Cook RM, AB(MW) G Rees, Mne N Huntley, Mne G Welling, Mne O Carter, Mne S Raumakita, AET T Notman, Mne P Coy, Musn H Marsh, LCpl A Wilman, LAET K Beasley, Cpl B Fox, Musn E Pascoe, NA C Moore, LPT J Basher, AET B Janes, Sgt G Evans, AET Jon Humphrey, AET Greg Loydall, MID L Hood.
Words by Jon Weale
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton