Great start to Navy Rugby Under 23 Inter Service campaign





Fly Half Rutter in his first representative appearance for the Royal Navy Rugby Union U23s
Reservist Ben Roberts thunders past the Royal Air Force challenger
The first of three tries for James Griggs
Bringing with him all his skill and experience, Gareth Rees worked hard as scrum half
Jeacock finds the gap to make the score
Scoring straight from the line out, Jarrard Hayler
The Royal Air Force struggled to find a way through the strong Navy defence
Marine Dan Mason brought with him his experience from last year’s competition to the side
Roberts in action, supported by Hayler and Rutter
Commodore Andy Burns, RNRU Vice President, presents the RNRU U23 team with the winning trophy

When the Royal Navy Rugby Union Under 23 team travelled to RAF Halton to begin the defence of their Inter Service title I doubt anyone would have predicted that they would make such a successful start. With the first of the 3 matches played between the Army and the Royal Air Force ending in an Army victory 19 - 13, the Royal Navy side knew that they would have to work hard to come away with a win.  However that is exactly what they did, scoring 43 points to the Royal Air Force's 7 and setting themselves up to secure the U23 Inter Service title for the third time in a row.

It was a bright afternoon at the home of RAF sport with the very strong winds causing disruption to both the line out and kicking.  The Navy, playing with the wind behind them in the opening half, dominated possession and territory but it was clear that the home side were up for the fight.  The score line remained nil - nil until the end of the first quarter when the Navy made the most of an attacking scrum in the RAF half, utilising the blind side and with some smooth passing, got the ball to Eldon Myers to touchdown in the corner for the first score of the match.  An exceptional touch line conversion by Gareth Rees extended the lead to 0 - 7.

Now that the first breakthrough had been achieved the team settled into their rhythm.  Some good phases of play followed and the ball ended up in the hands of winger James Griggs and he flew over the line for the second try of the match, 0 - 12.   This score seemed to unsettle the RAF and an overthrow at the lineout on their 5 metre line shortly afterwards saw the ball go straight to the Royal Navy openside, Jarrard Hayler crashed over the line for the score which Rees’ converted for the Navy to stretch their lead 0 - 19.

This galvanised the home side into action and for the remainder of the first half the Navy had to defend hard.  Sustained pressure inside the Navy 22 saw them concede a penalty and resulted in a yellow card.  With the player advantage this was the opportunity for the RAF to open their scoring. However try as they might they couldn’t capitalise on this and some excellent defence from the Royal Navy and some unforced handling errors by the RAF ensured the score line remained 0 - 19 as the half time whistle blew.

The second half started with gusto when in the opening minute Ben Jeacock found a gap through the RAF defence and thundered over the line for a try between the posts which was converted by Rees, 0 - 26.   The Royal Navy began to dominate in all areas and played the conditions very well and following some swift interplay between the backline saw Griggs touch down in the corner for his second try of the afternoon, 0 - 31.

To their credit, the RAF side composed themselves and worked their way into the Navy half, keen to get some points on the board.  However great work from the Navy forwards halted the advance and it wasn’t long before the home side were on the back foot again.  Great passing from the half way line resulted in a line break and try for Brad Janes converted by full back Acreman, 0 - 38.

Once again the RAF fought back, working through the phases deep into Navy territory.  Sustained pressure resulted in another penalty and yellow card for the Navy.  Being down to 14 men didn’t slow them down though and the response was another try, this time set up by fly half Rutter with a grubber kick caught by Griggs who dived into the corner for his third try of the game, 0 - 43.

In the final quarter the Navy emptied the bench allowing maximum use of the strong squad and exposing the full team to the experience of an Inter Service match.  In the midst of all the substitutions the RAF made a break through the centre and scored beneath the posts. With the successful conversion the scoreboard read 7 -43, and this was how it remained up to the final whistle.

It was an exciting game to watch and the score line does not fully reflect the skill and expertise of the Royal Air Force team.  They gave the Royal Navy some good competition but were unable to find the gaps in the strong Navy Defence.  The Royal Navy played the conditions very well and will be heartened by the number of line breaks and supporting lines by the whole team, allowing them to play attacking rugby on the front foot, resulting in plenty of tries scored.  They will be looking for a repeat performance at Burnaby Road on Wednesday when they welcome the Army U23s for the deciding match in the 2017 Inter Service competition.  However the Army will be looking to cause an upset and wrestle the trophy from Navy hands.  The match will kick off at 1900, entry is free and all are welcome so come along to see who will be crowned the champions.

Team List: Ben Love, Sam Vernon, Callum Frogley, Ben Roberts, Scott Makepeace (captain), Dan Mason, Shaun Walker, Jarrard Hayler, Gareth Rees, Dan Rutter, Eldon Myers, Ben Jeacock, Brad Janes,  James Griggs, Jackson Acreman.
Replacements: Gareth Yeomans, Issac Salt, Nathan Treveil, James Lindsay, Joe Morgan, Nick Burgess, Matt Bratton, Craig Jones.

Images Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton