Close contest in the Wavell Wakefield Cup


RN Senior XV


RAF Senior XV

A power house in the second row but also fairly fleet of foot when required, Sam Matavesi
Centre, Raumakita, tries to find a way through the RAF defence
Full back Humphrey added 6 points to the Navy total with his right boot
Winger, Myers, scored the first Royal Navy try
McNally gets to grips with Navy Lock Pascoe

The Royal Navy Rugby Union Senior XV travelled to the Twickenham Stoop for the 93rd meeting with the Royal Air Force Union in the Inter Service Rugby Union competition 2018. A close game with the Royal Navy often ahead but ultimately saw an RAF victory of both the game and the overall competition.

The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Collingwood provided impressive musical support to the ceremonial opening of what would be a close contest on a balmy evening at the Twickenham Stoop. The pre-match formalities concluded and the crunching contest commenced with Royal Navy Rugby Union’s outside half, Marine Nathan Huntley, kicking the ball high into the early evening cloudless sky.

RAF Rugby’s scrum-half’s return saw the ball kicked into Navy Rugby’s possession and a flurry of kicking exchanges continued until an infringement led to a penalty being awarded to Navy Rugby only a few metres inside their opponent’s half. On target, a tantalisingly close penalty kick narrowly dropped below the bar, but undaunted, AET Jon Humphrey returned to join his team mates and the game recommenced with the RAF Rugby’s 22 drop-out. An incursion into Navy Rugby’s half led to the first line-out of the match but the ball was nimbly caught by Logistician Sam Matavesi and the ball was booted down back towards RAF Rugby’s 10 metre line. A second line-out followed, this time thrown in by RAF Rugby. The subsequent flow of play was terminated by a thumping tackle on one of the RAF Rugby’s second row players delivered by the Navy Number 8, Lance Corporal Jarrard Hayler. In the aftermath of loose play that followed the referee blew his whistle and awarded the RAF a penalty 30 metres in front of the posts. The RAF’s fly-half’s boot sent the ball tumbling through the darkening sky and through the uprights to give the RAF the first three points of the evening.

The Royal Navy’s restart led to their opponent’s scrum-half launching a high up-and-under and a fitting riposte by the Navy scrum half, AB(MW) Gareth Rees. Receiving the ball RAF Rugby shipped the ball wide through the hands of their back-line but were stopped by Navy Rugby’s ardent defence. The first scrum of the match followed and with bated breath the crowd of Navy Rugby supporters waited to see how their team’s pack would defy their opposite numbers. Navy Rugby’s front-row, Colour Sergeant Gaz Evans and Marine Robbie Wilson propping their team captain playing at hooker, LPT Ben Priddey. RAF Rugby’s put-in squirted the ball out the back of the scrum and into the hands of their inside centre who was thwarted by Navy Rugby’s brick wall defence. Again the referee blew-up and a penalty was awarded against the Navy which was converted into three points. Twelve minutes into the game and the scoreboard illuminated 0 – 6 in favour of the RAF.

Following the restart, the ball was kicked back into Jarrard Hayler’s safe hands. A ferocious passage of play ensued and the ball was lost to RAF Rugby who in turn erred resulting in the ball ending in touch for a Navy Rugby throw-in. Ben Priddey launched an impressive long ball which was routed onwards through the centres’ hands of AET Greg Loydall and Marine Seta Raumakita. The frenetic passage of play culminated in a knock-forward, an RAF Rugby put-in to the scrum, and a kick deep into Navy Rugby’s half. What was to follow would have every one of the 4000 spectators on the very edge of their seats.

RAF Rugby’s throw-in led to a strong drive towards Navy Rugby’s try line. A scramble of stoic defending ever closer to Navy Rugby’s try line was rewarded with a scrum, however, under pressure, the scrum collapsed and RAF Rugby was granted another penalty.  Following the line-out RAF Rugby attempted a rolling maul but Navy Rugby secured turn-over ball. Navy Rugby kicked to touch and once the ball was back in play RAF Rugby resumed their attack only to be penalised for obstruction. Navy’s Rugby’s scrum was rock-solid, the engine-room in the second-row of Musician Edd Pascoe and AET Scott Makepeace, holding firm which allowed Jarrard Hayler to pick-up the ball from the back of scrum with the back row (Sam Matavesi and Ratu Vakalutukali) in close support. Ground was made and the ball came to rest in touch for an RAF Rugby throw-in and a scrum followed. A huge cheer went up from the crowd as Navy Rugby won the scrum against the head. The ball was safely passed out wide as Navy Rugby’s back-line thundered into their opponent’s 22. With unstoppable momentum, the 5 metre line was reached and after another joint effort to smash through RAF Rugby’s defences, Navy Rugby’s wing, ET(WE) Eldon Myers, grounded the ball for a try, deftly converted by Humphrey’s boot. With fifteen minutes of the first half to play the Royal Navy led 7 – 6.

Following the restart and a scrum RAF Rugby’s number 14 went over for a try in the corner, and the ball bounced off the upright to go in for the conversion, (scoreboard Royal Navy 7 - 13 RAF).

The game continued with an exchange of kicks and a line-out to Navy Rugby. A startlingly slick passage of play saw Ratu Vakalutakali pass out to the back-line, which resulted in a Greg Loydall pass back to Ratu Vakalutakali as he swept up the touch line at pace. Inside the final ten minutes of the first half the RAF were given a scrum seven metres out from the Navy’s try line. But fortunes were quickly reversed following a Navy Rugby throw in and the back line carried the ball well into the RAF’s half. A fifteen-man effort led to a scramble on RAF Rugby’s try line and Ratu Vakalutakali scored the five points. Humphrey converted and once again Navy Rugby edged into the lead, (14 – 13).

Navy Rugby’s celebrations were cut-short as their opponents once more surged forward from the restart and in a heartbeat their number 14 went over for a try which was not converted, (scoreboard 14 – 18 in RAF Rugby’s favour).

The final few minutes of the first half saw a series of RAF Rugby’s line-outs and a crunching tackle from Robbie Wilson. The last act of the half was a penalty awarded to RAF Rugby which went over creating a half-time score of 14 – 21 against Navy Rugby.

RAF Rugby kicked off the second half. Following an aerial exchange of kicks, a high tackle led to a Navy Rugby penalty kick to touch and a foray into RAF Rugby’s territory. Then followed an RAF Rugby put-in to the scrum. The ball was kicked to touch for a Navy Rugby throw-in, which resulted in the ball reaching Marine Seta Raumakita on the wing, who forged ahead making vital ground. The ball was recycled and in the hands of the marauding Gareth Rees, was firmly placed down for the try. Once more Humphrey’s boot inflicted a further two points bringing the two teams to 21 – 21.

Equally poised, both teams locked horns again following the RAF Rugby restart. RAF Rugby attempted a grubber kick which rebounded, and resulted in a penalty on Navy Rugby’s 10 metre line but failed to go over for the three points.

Navy Rugby brought on AB(CIS) (SM) Matt Harvey for Ratu Vakalutakali and Corporal Ben Fox temporarily stood in for Ben Priddey who went off for treatment for a blood injury. A Navy Rugby scrum followed and soon Priddey came back on to continue to lead from the front, alongside a Marine Harry Collins who came on for Gaz Evans in the front row.

Navy Rugby continued to defend and test their opponents. Harry Collins received a yellow card and Gaz Evans was called back to the fray to fill the gap in the front row. RAF Rugby seize the opportunity to push forward from a series of set pieces and Navy Rugby became besieged on their five metre line facing scrum and penalty one after the next. Yet Jarrard Hayler responded with a pick up from the back of the scrum and Gareth Rees safely kicked to touch. Following an RAF Rugby’s throw-in, Navy Rugby was once more back valiantly defending their own try line. A penalty was given to RAF Rugby which set up a line-out followed by a surge across the try-line for a converted try, (scoreboard 21 – 28 in RAF Rugby’s favour).

Marine Greg Welling replaced Greg Loydall and Navy Rugby established a foot-hold on RAF Rugby’s 22. With six minutes to the final whistle Harry Collins came back and the final result hung in the balance – only a converted try separating the two teams. But, following a Navy Rugby scrum, a penalty was awarded to RAF Rugby which went over for the three points with only three minutes remaining.

In the dying moments of the game and with further changes made to the pack, Navy Rugby kicked a penalty to the corner for a line-out and a scintillating finish. Navy Rugby backs and forwards united in the pursuit to get points on the scoreboard once more headed for the RAF Rugby try-line but in the end a scrum was awarded against them. The ball was sent into touch and eighty minutes of non-stop end-to-end dramatic rugby came to an end.  The RAF had won the match and with it the Inter service competition, what a fitting result in their 100th anniversary year. Congratulations RAF.  Next up the Royal Navy travel to Twickenham on 5 May to take on the Army. Go Navy!

Team list: CSgt G Evans, LPT B Priddey (team captain), Mne R Wilson, Musc E Pascoe, AET S Makepeace, Logs(SC) S Matavesi, Mne R Vakalutukali, LCpl J Hayler, AB(MW) G Rees, Mne N Huntley, LAET B Chambers, AET G Loydall, Mne S Raumakita, ET(WE) E Myers, AET J Humphrey, Replacements: AET C Warner, Mne H Collins, Capt O Mason RM, AB(CIS)(SM) M Harvey, Cpl B Fox, NA(AH) C Moore, Mne G Welling, AB (D) R Dimmock-Williams

Words: Jon Wheale
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © Keith Woodland