Esher Cardinals v RN Senior XV
RN Senior XV
A calm cool night and a well prepared surface under lights at Esher provided the perfect backdrop for this regular entertaining fixture. The RN now in their 5th week of camp, are still developing and fine tuning their Inter-Service squad combinations, having been working hard in a number of technical areas following analysis of recent match trends. Despite a good positive warm-up and mental prep, Esher were able to catch the RN on the hop! Although there was nothing specifically wrong, Esher delivered a textbook short sharp shock right from the start, effectively producing two short distinct phases of play against a well organised Navy defence - but nevertheless breeched our line both times. 15 mins in and they were a comfortable 10-0 up. Coupled with these two scores - the Navy suffered some injuries - both centres went down - Mat Tichias and Sam Davies both had to come off following individual hand injuries, and prop Kye Beasley followed them with a suspect broken nose (blood replacement only) - into their place went Silvenusi Buinimasi, Tom Davies and Josh Terry. From a TSG perspective - this now provided a good test of the team's resolve and their real ability to dig deep and work themselves out of trouble. Despite the Cardinal shock and awe - it wasn't too long before the Navy had methodically taken some of the pace out of the game, regained field position and were building their patterns in order to manipulate the Cardinal's defence close to their line. The scrum was clearly gaining dominance and despite technically having the upper hand the ref was still giving the benefit of doubt to Esher. Approximately 25 mins in and replacement centre Buinimasi broke the Esher defensive line for a well taken try, converted by Jon Humphrey. With the Navy now back in the groove - they were able to step up the pace and began applying more pressure in the Cardinal Red Zone. Eventually after a number of further scrummage opportunities - the Referee elected to award a penalty try to the Navy - again duly converted by Jon Humphrey. Halftime came with the Navy 10-14 up, having regained control of a relatively high tempo game.
Second half - saw Josh Terry now replace Kye Beasley in the front row, 7 minutes later the pre-planned changes saw Dave Fairbrother and Nathan Huntley switch on for the strong carrying Sumo Thompson and Rich Cadywould, who had managed the game well. Almost immediately Huntley found himself intercepting a wayward pass from a forced cardinal attack, needing only to race the Esher winger in from 40 metres out for a try in the left hand bottom corner. Jon Humphrey was seemingly unable to convert from this dimly lit position. 10-19 to the Navy. 10 minutes later Harry Collins entered play, with the subsequent reshuffle in the pack - resulting in the hard hitting Tom Cowley coming off after a goods evening's work. Tuna Marlin replaced Matty Bowden and on the hour created a great break before linking with Dave Fairbrother who went over for the Navy's fourth try of the evening. Conversion by Jon Humphrey - 10-26. With the game now beginning to loosen up - and the Navy beginning to flow nicely, so too did the Second half penalty count. Esher were subsequently awarded a penalty outside the Navy 22m - which they duly converted - 13-26. Slightly disappointing - the increased penalty trend didn't instantly improve and Fairbrother was subsequently awarded a yellow card for a high tackle. Now with 14 players on the pitch, the RN took the opportunity to switch to fresher legs; John Court replaced Kyle Mason after his return to full fitness and a good strong performance, while Graham Butterworth came on for the ever tackling Seti Raumakita. Cory Moore replaced the industrious Johnny Stephen. With a fresher feel to the side - the pace once again quickened and some nice attacking phase play was generated as the Cardinals were clearly beginning to tire. The penalty awarded just inside the Esher 10m line was duly converted. 13-29.
A good game, made better by the resolve of the team to regain control after the very quick Esher start - the Senior's management can now focus on a up-tempo week of training before the consolidation conditioning period in Malta.
Images Alligin Photography / © John Walton