French forwards frustrate Navy Rugby Women
RN Women XV
Marine Nationale Feminines
The Royal Navy Rugby Union Women played Marine Nationale at HMS Drake. The atmosphere was one of trepidation as the game kicked off and the old rivalry between the two teams re-kindled with the French side kicking the ball into the grey Spring sky above the heads of the many spectators. A knock-forward and the first scrum, visitors put in, and immediately French muscle was on show with the ball out and the Marine Nationale forwards grinding across the home side’s 10 m line and onwards through a passage of loose play. But the French juggernaut was penalised and Navy Rugby kicked safely to touch. The first half was to be dominated by Navy Rugby’s ferocious tackling and no sooner had the French side taken the ball from the first line-out that Number 8, Charlotte Fredrickson, intervened with a crunching tackle on the French fly-half. The game continued with Marine Nationale’s forwards seeking to bull-doze across Navy Rugby’s 22m line, only to be held back again and again. The home side’s valiant defence holding solidly for the first quarter of the game. Moments of brilliance punctuated the attritional onslaught from the French and from a high ball Navy Rugby’s Poppy Stillman darted up the wing. The line out that followed resulted in another penalty being awarded to the home side. Fly half, Sarah Jenkins, kicking to the French corner.
The two sides continued the high tempo and increasingly Navy Rugby had the better of their opponents in terms of both territory and possession. Eighteen minutes into the game and high drama ensued as Navy Rugby blocked a French to kick to touch from inside their 22. A Navy scrum in reach of the French try line was thwarted and the ball once more scudded high up into the air from the boot of the French fly-half. The evenly matched teams scrummed down on the Navy’s 10 m line and the French won against the head but once again Navy Rugby’s ardent defence stood strong with the back row, Anne-Marie McIntyre tackling he French scrum-half. The ball was regained by the visitors and the French forwards rolled on. The ball was kicked to the corner by the French fly-half and from the line-out the French pack was able to drive over the try-line. After 28 minutes of non-stop neck-and-neck action the French scored the first try, unconverted (score: 0 – 5).
After the re-start Navy Rugby’s back-line exhibited some stylish play with a cross-field kick from Jenkins scooped up by Stillman linking with full-back, Rose Dixon. The game defaulted back to the ball belonging to the French forwards and French prop dropped over the try-line following a grinding maul, unconverted (score: 0 -10).
After the re-start a momentary breakdown of discipline led to a yellow card for Navy Rugby’s prop, Lucy Honeyball, and a red card for one of the French second-rows. The penalty was awarded to the home side who kicked to touch. Another penalty (the French outside centre being yellow carded) and Navy Rugby secured 3 points, (score: 3 – 10) at half time.
The second half started in familiar fashion with the French forwards dominating up front but held in check by the home side’s tireless defending. After 5 minutes and the yellow cards over, the game continued on a knife-edge with neither side dominating the other. But gradually the French forwards gained the upper hand and the French second-row went over for a try, unconverted (Score: 3 – 15).
With ten minutes left on the clock Marine Nationale capitalised off the back of a Navy line-out, as the ball spilled out the French forwards went over for their fourth try, unconverted (score: 3 – 20).
Navy Rugby’s centre, Emma Maxwell, was substituted and Gemma Flowers joined the fray. Outside centre, Sam Alderson, impressed the crowd by ripping the ball in the tackle and passing out to fly-half, Dixon. Dixon being the twelfth player to captain the side in its history.
As the final few minutes of the game disappeared, Navy Rugby continued to defend but once more the French forwards took the ball over the try line for their fifth and final score, unconverted (score: 3 – 25) full-time.
Final score: Royal Navy Rugby Union Women 3, Marine Nationale Feminines 25
Team list: 1. Lt K Ives 2. PO E Park (vice team captain) 3. AET L Honeybell 4. PO A Kightley 5. AET A Sondack 6. MA R Dilmore 7. PO A McIntyre 8. Lt Cdr C Fredrickson 9. S/Lt O Critchley 10. PO S Jenkins 11. AB R Carragher 12. Surg Lt S Alderson 14. S/Lt P Stillman 15. AB R Dixon (team captain) 16. AB E Bloxham 17. AB E Buchanan 18. AB E Bythell 19. AB A Green 20. PO G Flowers 21. NA L Adams 22. OCdt S Coles 23. OCdt A Ashby
Words: Oliver Mason
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton