Disappointment for Royal Navy U23s against Dorset and Wiltshire
RN U23 XV
Dorset & Wiltshire RFC
There were several changes to the starting line up at Burnaby Road following last Sunday's match against London Scottish and the during the first half it looked like the Royal Navy U23 side had the match in the bag. It was a glorious sunny day at the United Services ground and the Navy U23s' superior power and possession took them into a convincing half time lead only for Dorset and Wiltshire to turn the tide and hold on to what was a very exciting game of rugby to win by 2 points in the final minutes of the match.
It didn't take long for Dorset and Wiltshire to get on the score sheet. With possession from the start they tested the U23s' defence with a number of pick and goes, and got into the Navy's 22. The home side's defence stood up well and it took a delightful individual piece of skill from the opposition standoff to run in the first try of the game, which was converted and the score stood at 0-7 with only 3 minutes on the clock.
From the restart the U23s began to exert their dominance. They kept the ball well, worked down the fringes of the breakdown and played for territory with some tidy kicking from the half backs, Rees and Burgess, forcing Dorset and Wiltshire to play on the back foot in their own 22. As has been the case for much of the season, the U23s opted to kick to the corner and got straight onto the score board with a catch and drive, the score was 5-7 and still only 8 minutes played.
Then the RN U23s let their concentration lapse, got caught with their hands in the ruck and were penalised right in front of the posts, conceding 3 points from the boot of the opposition stand off. But almost immediately following the restart it was the turn of Dorset and Wiltshire to attract the attention of the referee with a high tackle which allowed Rees to cancel out the earlier penalty, 8-10.
Then the penalties started to rack up for Dorset and Wiltshire. The RN dominance up front forced the visitors to attempt to illegally slow down the U23s' quick ball and they found themselves down to 14 men when repeated offences at the breakdown gave the referee no choice but to show a yellow card to the opposition second row. Whilst the opposition were down to 14, the U23s cranked up the pressure to score two further tries to lead 20-10. And the situation didn't get any easier for Dorset and Wiltshire when they were restored to 15 players. Their ill-discipline let them down again and with the U23s kicking for touch, another try from a catch and drive quickly followed. The half time score was 27-10 with the U23s looking strong.
The home side dominated at the start of the second half. They had plenty of possession and made the hard yards with some strong running from the front row. The opposition couldn't stop the wave of Navy attacks and were penalised again for hands in the ruck. A similar pattern appeared to be emerging with the Navy kicking to touch but they could not repeat the catch and drive and the ball was turned over. Another try may well have broken the resolve of Dorset and Wiltshire but instead they began to fight back. Coinciding with the some replacements to the U23 side, momentum shifted to the opposition and they enjoyed lots of possession and the home side came under sustained pressure. Dorset and Wiltshire worked the ball well and scored a great try in the corner to close the gap 27-15. The score appeared to fill the opposition with confidence and dent the resolve of the Navy team. Further pressure saw them scoring again with some great support play and offloads, the Navy were definitely on the back foot and the score was 27-22 with 20 minutes still to play.
The game was really opening up and the RN began to tire. Then it was the Navy's turn to play with 14 players when Corey Pulman, harshly in some eyes, was sent to the bin for not allowing a player to get to his feet following a great try-saving tackle. The U23s rallied and won a defensive line out on their line and were awarded the scrum put in. Unfortunately they were penalised for an early engagement and Dorset and Wiltshire scored and converted from out wide to take the lead 27-29. With only minutes remaining the Navy exerted some pressure and were rewarded with a penalty which Burgess kicked, taking the score to 30-29. However straight from the restart the U23s infringed and it was the turn of the opposition to line up a long penalty kick to steal the win. The ball sailed over to the delight of the travelling supporters and the heartache of the Navy, the final score was RNRU U23s 30 - Dorset and Wiltshire 32.
Team List: Kai Allton, Tom Hughes, Sam Vernon, Ben Watson (captain), Hayden Wilkinson, Ben Roberts, Dan Mason, Scott Makepeace, Gareth Rees, Nick Burgess, Craig Jones, Corby Pulman, Brad Janes, Liam Williams, Chris Mills, Rory Bonnick, Josh Skinner, Joe Burton, Ash Miller, James Rutherford, Rory Penfold, Adam Gallagher.
Words by Tom Westwood
Images Royal Navy Rugby Union/© John Walton