Duncan takes on Georgian Armed Forces
Georgian Armed Forces
Walking out of the tunnel of the Poti Rugby Stadium on a hot and sunny afternoon, HMS Duncan’s Rugby Team took to the pitch to a scene akin to an international. Duncan and her opposition, the combined team from the Georgian Armed Forces, lined up on the 5 metre line to sing their respective national anthems. The booming music and less than partisan crowd raised the atmosphere as well as the heart rates of all involved. Few in Duncan had ever played in front of such a crowd or in such an amazing facility. Duncan lost the toss and received the first ball of the game which was taken securely and an attack was mounted. The hosts had a strong defence and won the ball back and immediately counter-attacked; with fast hands and strong pace they passed the ball wide for the winger to score the first try of the game to take the lead 5 - 0. Duncan knew they were in for a hard game, but had not expected such large men to have such pace. The Georgian Armed Forces gathered the ball from the subsequent restart and attacked with pace and aggression; Duncan withstood the attack with strong tackles from centre LET(WE) Stef Howells, fly half Lt Steve “Jimmy” Carr and prop POET “Sticky” Green. Following a strong passage of play from the home side, Duncan conceded a penalty which was taken quickly and the Georgian backs sped for the line, unfortunately (or fortunately for Duncan) the referee, Duncan’s own PO(AWT) “Jumper” Collins judged the final pass to be forward.
The next 20 minutes of the game were played with electric pace which Duncan struggled to contend with and resulted in two further tries and 1 conversion for the Georgians to leave the score 17 - 0. Duncan took positives from the period with the line out remaining strong and it provided a good platform from which to launch attacks at the Georgian line. The Georgian tackling was however just as strong as their attack, thwarting the many efforts to gain ground. By 32 minutes into the half, the hosts had scored another 3 tries with 2 of them converted to leave the score 36 - 0. At 33 minutes following the restart, Duncan forced the Georgians into an error which saw ET Gill break through and off load to the scrum half (LCH Matty Tew). The Georgian defence was tested and conceded a penalty, Duncan kicked for touch to take a crack at the Georgian defence with an attacking line out on the 22 metre line. At the line out the hosts were warned by the referee that their penalty count was too high, Duncan capitalised on this and kept the ball tight resulting in another penalty. This saw the referee reaching for his pocket and he showed their flanker a yellow card. Again Duncan went for the touch line however this time the Georgians responded and stole the ball in the air which was quickly shipped wide to the winger who raced in for a certain try under the posts. It was not to be however and 5 metres from the try line he passed back inside to the fullback who knocked the ball on. The half time score was 36 - 0. The opposition were typical Georgian rugby players whose direct running style had given Duncan a tough half of rugby. Duncan who had kept at their defensive duties, tackled hard but were overcome by the powerful running of a well drilled team.
Half time allowed both teams to take on some much needed fluids and more importantly gave the Duncan team time to re-group and quickly identify where they could make improvements and get themselves on to the score card. It was clear that in order to counter the ball carrying ability of the opposition, double tackling would be required, two players per attacker. This would obviously lead to more room out wide but it was decided to blunt the attack in midfield and rely on covering defenders to close down wide players.
The start of the second half saw the Georgian forces down to 14 men for seven minutes, could Duncan capitalise on the overlap? Duncan took the restart which led to a line out. Again the line out was strong and was used to launch an attack, with the driving mall making 20 metres before being collapsed. A further penalty pushed Duncan deep into the Georgian half. A revitalised Duncan team saw forwards and backs interlinking until No8 POET Pedro Trerise made a decisive break through midfield. With players in support either side he managed to off load in the tackle. Unfortunately he found the opposition winger who turned on the pace and blasted his way up the field resulting in a try and a score of 41 - 0. This was disappointing for Duncan who had pressurised their hosts for 15 minutes and was against the run of play. Bloodied but by no means out for the count the restart was secured and the ball launched downfield by Lt Carr.
A fantastic chase saw the Duncan No7 Capt Callum Bridger RM pressurise his opposite number forcing an error. Duncan were awarded a penalty and opted to kick to touch to once again rely on their solid lineout. Playing to their strengths the set piece enabled a 10 metre gain followed by the forwards raising the tempo and keeping the opposition on the back foot by picking and driving - making good ground. Eventually the Georgians infringed and Duncan opted to kick for goal which narrowly missed. The following 22 restart led to a line out to the hosts with Duncan competing and then securing the ball. Hooker Lt Smith collected the ball and seeing a gap started off up the park with CPO(ET) “Slinger” Woods in support. 1 missed tackle and an off load and Duncan are on the scoreboard; CPO Woods crossed the line under the posts. LCH Matty Tew added the conversion and the score was now 41 - 7. Duncan were rejuvenated and began a period of free running rugby supported by dynamic pick and drives from the relentless forwards. The restart was taken securely by CPO(AWT) “Smudge” Smith (who is also the team coach) who broke free of a tackle on the halfway line and pushed into space. A series of offloads, too much for the Georgians to handle, saw a pass to hooker Lt Cdr Smith on the 22 who then stormed down the field scoring the ship’s second try in less than 5 minutes. This time the conversion was missed, scoreboard 41 - 12. Both teams had upped their game and the Georgians realised they could not have everything their own way. This physical encounter was not over; the Georgian Armed Forces pressed their attack again and from a resulting scrum they secured the ball and dived for the line. Duncan’s scrum half LCH Matty Tew managed to hold the ball up preventing a try from being scored. Duncan kicked for touch but failed to make it, the counter attack was strong and in the 74th minute the home team scored a final try with the final score 51 - 12.
This was Duncan’s second match of the deployment and the team continue to grow in confidence and ability. Although battered and bruised the team thoroughly enjoyed the physicality of the game and now look to forward to the next opportunity to play. The Georgian Armed Forces team were strong and well drilled; Duncan has learnt a lot from the game and has identified areas for the Coaching Staff to work on.
This match typified the role sport has in Defence Engagement. Duncan played in an all-seater stadium against a well drilled and physically robust Georgian Armed Forces team who were well supported with a crowd in the hundreds.
Duncan’s Rugby coach CPO(AWT) Chris “Smudge” Smith said: "Everybody stepped up to the mark and battled hard on a very hot day. Controlled aggression and determination paid off in the second half and we scored 2 good tries. Duncan’s crew did us proud and it was a welcome chance to blow off some steam."
Unofficial man of the match was the referee PO(AWT) Stuart “Jumper" Collins. He remarked: "the match was hard fought, but well disciplined, and played in the spirit of the game. The expected cricket score did not materialise and 51 - 12 to Georgia was a fair reflection of the day."
Said Duncan's Rugby Officer Lt James Smith: "It is not often that you start matches by singing your heart out to the national anthem and facing rows of opposition supporters flying their national flag. HMS Duncan faced daunting odds against a very strong and typically Georgian squad. The Ship's Company did not flinch from their task however, and won many admirers. The warm-up games of 7s tested our drills and the subsequent 80 minutes against a well honed Georgian XV was fought right to the end. Above all, we earned the respect of our Georgian colleagues and made many new friends."
PO(ET)(WE) Rich Green
Lt James Smith
CPO(AWT) Chris Smith
CPO(ET)(WE) Ian Woods
ET(CIS) Kieran Gill
ET(CIS) Nathan Greenhaigh
Capt Callum Bridger
PO(ET)(WE) Ross Trerise
LCH Matthew Tew
Lt Steve Carr
ET(WE) Matt Follen
LET(WE) Steffan Howells
LS(AWW) Adam Hamilton
LS(UW) Aled Bowen
CPO Gavin Partoon
ET(ME) Nathan Griggs
PO(ET)(ME) Blair Harris
Logs(SC) Ben Prideaux
AB(SEA) Andrew Linburn
PO(SEA) Alan Paxton
Words: CPO(AWT) Chris Smith
Images: Crown Copyright 2018 © Bruce Forster