Delighted with the draw
RN U23 XV
Exeter Chiefs Academy
It was with some trepidation that the Royal Navy Rugby Union U23 team travelled to Devonport for their fixture against the Exeter Chiefs Outreach side. Last year the young Navy players suffered a heavy defeat, losing 15 – 43 in Plymouth and this year they were keen to make a better impression. And this they duly did, coming back from behind to level the score 30-30 before the final whistle.
Kicking off under the floodlights at the Rectory, Exeter made a lively start and following a corner line out the forwards were able to drive over the line for the first try of the evening. The conversion was missed and the visitors took the lead 0 – 5. It wasn’t long before they added to their points tally with a second try scored after 8 minutes play to stretch their lead to 0 – 10.
It was now time for the Navy to wake up and get back in the game. From the restart the Navy were on the front foot and maintaining possession in the opposition half. A penalty was awarded against Exeter Chiefs for offside and keen to get points on the board, Acreman kicked to score the Navy’s first points of the night 3 – 10 with ten minutes played.
Unfortunately the next significant event was a period of stoppage time as prop Frogley sustained a potential neck injury. Treveil from HMS Collingwood came on to replace him.
During the next quarter the sides were fairly evenly matched but the Exeter side continued to dominate territory. Following a period of sustained pressure some quick hands moved the ball out wide and resulted in a third try for Chiefs scoreboard 3 – 15.
The Navy boys responded quickly, wanting to get some more points before the break. Keeping possession inside the opposition half they pushed up the field. Unfortunately the lineout was not straight and a scrum followed. Feeling the pressure, Exeter sustained a penalty and the Navy capitalised on this with their first try of the evening, which was duly converted by Acreman. The scoreboard read 10 – 15 at half time.
The Navy made a few changes with Vakalaca and Bratton replacing Morgan and Griggs. Experienced U23 scrum half Burgess replaced Rutter and Belcher came on for Woodhead. Exeter were determined to gain the upper hand and began the second half as they did the first with an early try to extend the lead 10 - 20. Acreman added the next 3 points for the Navy team, following another offside penalty to close the gap 13 – 20. But then Exeter made another move, going through the phases with some tight offloading to score their fifth try of the night just to the left of the posts. Despite the good position, the conversion was unsuccessful 13 – 25.
A couple more changes in the front row saw Yeomans and Salt replace Vernon and Love. Immediately into action the strong Navy scrum resulted in a driving maul that looked as if it was going to be a certain try but after a knock on the referee awarded a penalty and again Acreman delivered the 3 points to keep the Navy in the game 16 – 25.
But Exeter were not going to make it easy for the home side and scored another (unconverted) try with the aim of securing the win 16 – 30. Keen to give the full squad game time against such a challenging opposition the final replacements came on with Holland, Foster and Weale replacing Jeacock, Myers and Acreman.
With ten minutes left to play the Navy weren’t giving up. Some tight forward play and excellent mauling meant Dan Mason found himself right of the posts to score the Navy’s second try which was converted to bring the scores within one converted try, 23 – 30, with 4 minutes left on the clock.
Determined to succeed, the Navy forwards again took charge of the ball. A series of pick and gos gained territory and Walker touched down for 5 points and Burgess added another 2 to level the scores, 30 -30.
The Navy team management were delighted with the result, seeing the courage and determination in their side to come from behind, against strong Exeter side, to level the score. The team now have one final preparation match before their first Inter Service match away against the RAF U23s on 22 November.
Love, Vernon, Frogley, Morgan, Makepeace (team captain), Mason, Hayler, Walker, Woodhead, Rutter, Griggs, Jeacock, Myers, Heard, Acreman. Replacements Bird, Treveil, Salt, Yeomans, Vakalaca, Holland, Belcher, Burgess, Bratton, Foster, Weale.
Images Royal Navy Rugby Union © Mark Andrews