First win of the season for the Under 23s
Dorset & Wilts U20
On Sunday, 15th September 2019, a lovely hot sunny afternoon, a 30 U23 Sailors and Royal Marines gathered at Burnaby Road, Portsmouth for the second game in a series of matches to identify, assess, develop players and prepare a team to contest the Inter Services U23 championship to be played in November. Dorset & Wiltshire U20 were the opponents and they are preparing for the RFU U20 national competition.
For much of the first quarter both sides played at a fast and furious error strewn pace in an attempt to gain an advantage. Penalties, forward and dropped passes, lost line outs and missed kicks to touch were the order of the day. However as players settled down there were some good passages of play. A kick through by Dorset & Wilts put pressure on the Royal Navy defence which resulted in a lineout to the RN, although overthrown No3 Frogley, a returning capped player, cleared up at the tail and drove forward into the centre of the pitch relieving the pressure. Frogley was again at the forefront of play with a turnover from a D&W lineout followed by a rampaging run into the opposition forwards. Frogley shortly after left the field for running repairs and was replaced by 17. After short periods of good play the RN were pilling pressure on the D&W try line when a penalty was awarded. Taken quickly by the Navy scrum half it was stopped 3 metres from the try line. After some excellent driving forward play with W Scott (6) and McGrath (8) to the fore, Frogley, who had returned to the fray a couple of minutes earlier, crossed the line to score the Navy's first try. The conversion by the team captain Hanley, playing at fullback, was successful. Royal Navy 7 Dorset & Wiltshire 0.
More errors followed with both sides trying hard to create something. The Navy won a scrum against the head which was followed by a high tackle from the D&W No16 and a yellow card resulted. After the penalty and a poor throw in inside the D&W 22 the Navy lost the initiative and D&W were able to relieve the pressure. The Navy continued to press with Aziz (No4) making some hard yards, winning a penalty and line out only to give away a penalty enabling D&W to relieve pressure on their line. Again the Navy won some good ball in the D&W 22 close to the try line. Good handling by the Navy coupled with resolute defence by the opposition which was finally overcome and the Navy scored a second try by Jackson, converted by No10 Peterson. Royal Navy 14 – Dorset & Wiltshire 0.
The remainder of this period was a succession of errors, although Chris Mills, another returning capped player, drove deep into the D&W defence only to be hauled down and robbed of the ball whilst isolated. A kick and run by D&W caused panic in the Navy back three running the ball back from behind their own try line. It was very risky and could so easily have gone badly wrong. At half time with the score remained Royal Navy 14 - Dorset & Wiltshire 0. It was time to get some hydration and for the coaches to ring the changes.
Five minutes into the second half D&W finally got some points on the board with a well worked try by No13. The conversion was missed. Shortly after M Scott (19) was sent to the sin bin for a clumsy high tackle. Again the Navy were under pressure and ran the ball back from behind their own try line. Tactically not a sensible move and against a better side it could have been costly. During this period both teams gave away far too many penalties resulting in the referee talking to both captains and Dorset & Wiltshire converting two of them to bring the score to Royal Navy 14 – Dorset & Wiltshire 11.
The final period of play saw both sides trying to gain the advantage. The Navy defending their lead and D&W trying hard to score. Sadly the game ended with a significant injury to a Dorset & Wiltshire player.
Final score Royal Navy 14 – Dorset & Wiltshire 11.
Despite the errors both sides played with enthusiasm, commitment, courage and an amount of skill. For both teams there is plenty of work to be done by the coaches before they get to the serious competition part of their short season.
Was it a good game played in the right spirit and well managed by the officials? Yes without doubt. The RNRU U23 system continues to work well producing some very good players in recent years including Scott Makepeace, Gareth Rees, Brad Janes and Edd Pascoe who are all currently in Japan with the UKAF team competing in the International Defence Rugby Competition. Without doubt some of the current crop of players will be at Twickenham on Army Navy day 2020 playing for the Senior XV.
Interestingly Brigadier Ewen Murchison (RNRU RFU Council Member and former RNRU Chairman) was amongst the few relatives and friends in the crowd supporting his son playing for Dorset & Wiltshire. Who knows if like his father he may one day play in the blue shirt of the Royal Navy? On a personal note – you know when you are old when you remember the father playing on this pitch!!!
Next up for the Royal Navy Under 23 squad is an away fixture against Bristol University on Wednesday 25th September 2019 at Coombe Dingle Sports Complex, Bristol B59 2BJ kick off 1900hrs. It will be another step up for the squad. With links to several professional academies including Bristol Bears, Bath and Gloucester the students will be fit, fast, intelligent and skilful.
Under 23 TSG: Head Coach John Court, Andy Vance (Backs), Loz Salisbury (Fwds), Pony Moore and Team Manager Rob Jones.
Royal Navy Under23 Team: Cleverly, Bick, Frogley*, Morris, M. Scott, Oliver, White, Aziz, Holbrook, Scoot, Illsley*, Ashcroft, Raby, Leyland-Jones, W. Scott*, McGrath, Jackson, Rhodes, Gladwin, Peterson, Mills*, Metcalfe, Hanley*(team captain), John, Cumming,
*= RN U23 cap
Officials: Provided by the RNRURS: Simon Priestley (Referee), Tim Bailey and Des Donworth (Assistant Referees)
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © Keith Woodland