French Navy too strong for RN Senior XV
RN Senior XV
The sun was shining at Stade Mayol in Toulon as the Royal Navy Senior XV prepared to take on their French counterparts in the annual fixture, colloquially known as 'Le Crunch'. However after a hard fought 80 minutes of play it looked gloomy for the visitors as they went down 33 - 14 to the home side.
A decent crowd had gathered at the Toulon stadium to witness the match, and to support the Wounded Soldier charity who were the beneficiaries of funds raised as the Royal Navy Rugby Union Senior XV faced up to the Rugby Club Marine Nationale. For team captain Ben Priddey, as he led his team out onto the pitch, it was not a new experience. He had captained the side here when they last visited two years ago, and disappointingly lost 28 - 6. He and his team were keen to avenge their defeat, and level the series at seven wins apiece. However the French Navy had other ideas!
The opening score went to the French Navy who started full of controlled aggression and were determined to dominate the game from the off. The visiting side seemed unprepared for the force of the Marine Nationale and initially struggled to respond. Giving away a penalty following a tip tackle, the French added another three points to lead 8 - 0. With ten minutes played the Royal Navy started to get their act together. Working through the phases they made their way into Marine Nationale territory. They managed to put the French team under pressure and the home side were penalised for not releasing. Full back Jon Humphrey made light work of the penalty kick and put the Royal Navy's first points on the board. A few minutes later and again the Royal Navy had fought their way back into the home side's half. Another penalty was conceded and again Humphrey kicked the three points to close the gap 8 - 6.
From the restart the French Navy gained possession and worked their way up to the Royal Navy try line. A Marine Nationale scrum on the 5 metre line was driven over the try line for the Marine Nationale's second try of the night. The Royal Navy were clearly being over-powered in the scrum and seemed unable to fix the problem, which was repeated time and again during the first half.
With the score standing at 15 - 6, the Royal Navy responded well, a series of pick and gos from the forwards saw the team in their white away shirts move up the field but they didn't seem able to pick up any pace or find a gap in the Marine Nationale defence. After ten minutes with no break-through the French team won the turnover and worked their way back up the field. A moment of ill-discipline saw them penalised for off side and the French kicker made a superb kick, extending the French lead to 18 - 6.
The first half was drawing to a close and the Royal Navy team looked poised to score their first try. However further problems with the scrum resulted in a yellow card to the Royal Navy prop and a penalty to the French. Down to fourteen men the Royal Navy tried to defend but the home side found their way through for their third try of the evening and as the half time whistle blew the score was Marine Nationale 23 - 6 Royal Navy Senior XV.
A few changes were made at half time with newly capped prop Frogley replaced by another new cap, Wilman and No 8 Cook, another new cap, replaced by the experienced Harvey. The second half started in a very different fashion to the first half. The Royal Navy appeared bolstered after the half time team talk and dominated the opening minutes. Camped out in the opposition danger zone the pressure began to tell on the home side who conceded a penalty, which Humphrey cleanly kicked to keep the Royal Navy in the game, 23 - 9.
The Royal Navy went on the attack again and for the first time seemed to find some space, and some pace, however a poor pass led to a dropped ball. With perfect timing, a French player kicked the ball and as it careered towards the Royal Navy try line the first person to get to it was a red shirt, scoring the fourth French try, which was converted to keep the French Navy firmly in control, 30 - 9.
With the Royal Navy back up to fifteen men, newly promoted Colour Sergeant Gareth Evans came on to replace Beasley. A veteran of the Royal Navy Senior XV with 27 caps (gaining his 28th in this match) his presence finally sorted out the Royal Navy scrum, much to the relief of the watching Royal Navy supporters! Now scrumming on an even-footing, the Royal Navy were able to gain some ground and after a period of sustained pressure and hard work the Royal Navy forwards powered over the try line for their first (and only) try of the match. The familiar light blue scrum cap identified the scorer as lock, Ed Pascoe. Humphrey's kicking boot failed him this time and the score was Marine Nationale 30 - 14 Royal Navy with 25 minutes left on the clock.
Dimmock-Williams replaced Myers and Mason came on for Makepeace, shortly followed by Welling on for Humphrey. The next fifteen minutes were fairly even, with neither side being able to break through the other's defence. A moment of ill-discipline saw the Royal Navy penalised for not releasing and the Marine Nationale added the last three points to their tally. Ben Fox was the final Royal Navy replacement, coming on in the last 5 minutes to replace try scorer Pascoe. He didn't really get time to make much of an impression and after an extended period of injury time the referee blew his whistle for the final time. The Marine Nationale had won 33 - 14 and claimed their 8th victory in the 'Le Crunch' series.
The Royal Navy Senior XV will have been disappointed by their performance, which follows on from their very physical match against London Irish Academy. Our congratulations go to Callum Frogley, Ben Cook, Ben Chambers and Aaron Wilman for whom this match will be forever etched in their memories as the occasion they won their first representative cap for the Royal Navy. Hopefully there will be many more caps to follow gentlemen. The Training Support Group will take away many lessons, and be hoping that a couple of their players, out for injury in this game, are back to full fitness in time for their next match on 11 April against the British Police at United Services Sports Ground, Burnaby Road, Portsmouth KO 1800. Entry is free so come along and cheer them on.
Team: 1. AET K Beasley, 2. LPT B Priddey (team captain), ETWE C Frogley, 4. Musn E Pascoe, 5. AET S Makepeace, 6. Logs(SC) S Matvesi, 7. Mne J Hayler, 8. Capt B Cook RM, 9. AB(MW) G Rees, 10. Mne N Huntley, 11. LAET B Chambers, 12. AET G Loydall, 13. Mne S Raumakita, 14. ETWE E Myers, 15. AET J Humphrey, Replacements 16. CSgt G Evans, 17. LCpl A Wilman, 18. Capt O Mason RM, 19. Cpl B Fox, 20. AB(CIS)(SM) M Harvey, 21. NA(AH) C Moore (not used), 22. Mne G Welling, 23. AB(D) R Dimmock-Williams.
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © Keith Woodland