An exciting start to the season for the RNRU Under 23s
RN U23 XV
The Royal Navy Rugby Union Under 23 team have commenced their run up to the 2018 Inter Service matches, aiming to make it four consecutive wins in the competition. They started the season with matches against Hampshire RFU Under 20s and Ealing Trailfinders Academy.
Fortunately after 24 hours of heavy rain, the pitches at Chichester RFC were bathed in sunshine to host the Royal Navy Rugby Union U23 team as they took on Hampshire Under 20s in their opening match of the season. Having welcomed a large number of new players to their open training weekend in August, the Training Support Group, led by Head Coach, John Court, were keen to see how the players would perform on the pitch and trialled several new player combinations. Hampshire RFU U20s similarly wanted to see a broad range of players in action, hence both sides employed rolling substitutes throughout.
The Royal Navy team started off strongly and were the first side to score, with No 6, Sean Bramwell, crossing the line. Shortly after this, the RNRU lost their starting flanker, Chris Mills, out due to a suspected fracture. This was a blow to the Navy side as Chris brought with him his previous Under 23 experience from past seasons. He was replaced by Matt Parkhouse. Luckily it didn’t appear to affect the Navy’s momentum and scrum half, Cameron Shires added another five points after 20 minutes played. RNRU 10 – Hampshire 0.
The Hampshire boys were determined not to let the Navy team have things all their own away and from the restart Hampshire took the game to the RNRU. Forced to defend hard, the RNRU rose to the challenge and prevented Hampshire crossing the line. After a brief period of RNRU resurgence Hampshire stole the ball and a superb sprint over half the length of the pitch was only stopped by the fast legs and determination of back, Rory Cooper. However, the attack was only temporarily stalled and Hampshire quickly regrouped and went over for their first score, which was converted to close the gap 10 – 7. A second run over the line following the restart was ruled ‘held up’ by the referee and shortly after he blew the whistle for half time.
The second half started well for Hampshire with a well-worked try and conversion allowing them to take the lead 10 – 14. The Hampshire team enjoyed a period of dominance but after a few rolling subs, the Royal Navy team grouped. With a series of passes, they moved the ball across the pitch and over the line into the corner in the skilful hands of Rory Cooper. The angle was not conducive to the conversion and the Royal Navy edged ahead 15 – 14. Now back into their rhythm, another try quickly followed, this time the conversion, kicked by Ryan Scott, was good, extending the Navy lead 22 – 14. They say all good things come in threes, and it was not long before George Watson joined his team mates, scoring his first try in a Royal Navy shirt. RNRU U23s 27 – 14 Hampshire RFU U20s.
After making an infringement, Navy replacement, Gareth Yeomans was shown a yellow card. With the opposition down to fourteen men, Hampshire took their opportunity. Initially the RN defended well, repelling several Hampshire attacks, but eventually, as the clock ticked down, the Hampshire team found a gap out wide and scored their third try. The final score was RNRU U23s 27 – Hampshire U20s 19.
Their second match of the season, played away at Merchant Taylor school against Ealing Trailfinders academy side was always going to be a battle. The majority of the well-drilled Academy team players regularly play national league level rugby. The Navy Under 23s were keen to be tested. Assistant Coach, Leading Communicator Nathan ‘Pony’ Moore noted “When taking on a more experienced side, there is greater opportunity to find out where the team’s weak points are. We plan to highlight these areas for development and then work on them throughout the season so that we are in the best place possible when it comes time for our Inter Service matches in November.”
Due to some injuries, the RN TSG were forced to be more imaginative in their team selection, trying out players in different positions, and introducing several new faces to the squad. Ealing Trailfinders in comparison, started hard and instantly got the better of the visitors. Working through the phases, they played their set pieces and were able to exploit the inexperience of the Navy team. By the time the half time whistle blew the home side had a firmly established lead 31 – 0.
To their credit, the Royal Navy side kept their heads up and tried to quickly learn lessons and respond to the Trailfinders game plan. Although throughout the second half, Ealing kept up the pressure and notched up the scores, there was a period of play towards the end of the second half where the Navy team managed to control the game. They were rewarded for their efforts with a consolation try, scored by McLean. But it was Ealing Trailfinders who has the last word – scoring the final try to make the result Ealing Trailfinders Academy 57 – Royal Navy Under 23s 5.
The TSG were happy with the performance of their team, and are already scouring the digital footage looking for the lessons to highlight to the players in advance of their next training session. The Royal Navy Rugby Union Under 23s will be in action next away at Bournemouth RFC where they take on Dorset and Wiltshire Under 20s on Sunday 7 October kick off 1430.
RNRU U23 V Hampshire U20
1. AET Sam Vernon, 2. AET Sam Skinner, 3. AB KAI Allton, 4. AB Matt Scott, 5. AET Hayden Wilkinson 6. AB Sean Bramwell 7. AET Chris Mills 8. Mne Dan Plant 9. AB Cameron Shires 10. AET Dan Rutter 11. Mne Josh Guilfoyle 12. Mid Jacob Mikurenda 13. Mne Rory Cooper 14. SLt George Watson 15. AB Jake Hanley Replacements 16. AET Mitch Squibb 17. AET Gareth Yeomans 18. ET Matt Parkhouse 19. AET Ed Holland 20. AB Ryan Scott
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton and Keith Woodland