HMS Argyll RFC v Baltimore Chesapeake RFC
Baltimore Chesapeake RFC
HMS Argyll sailed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Baltimore to be part of the highly anticipated 'Star Spangled Spectacular' 200th anniversary celebrations, entering Chesapeake Bay to a 21 gun salute with hundreds of people lining the jetty and cheering her arrival. This visit would prove to be very enjoyable for the ships company, a welcome stand off and opportunity for Argyll RFC to face off against Baltimore Chesapeake RFC as part of the 'Sail Baltimore' Sports Day that included Argyll FC team agonisingly lose the tournament in the final, not surprisingly on penalties. Old habits die hard for the English regardless of ability it seems. After the football had finished the players were happily enjoying free beer and mountains of pizza laid on by the Sail Baltimore organisation, the Argyll RFC team looked on in awe hoping there would be some left for them as they made their way onto the Under Armour sponsored 4G pitch for their second game in as many weeks against American opposition. The sun was shining brightly for the first time during the visit and to add excitement to an already amazing day, 'The Blue Angels' (The American 'Red Arrows' equivalent) were displaying over head entertaining the delighted crowd. Just before the KO, a C17 rumbled high overhead and out of the sky dropped 6 US Navy Seals, plummeting to earth leaving trails of coloured smoke behind them before popping their parachutes and gliding gracefully into the grounds of Patterson Park flying their colours to a rapturous applause from the crowd.
After all the fun and frolics had calmed down Argyll RFC lined up, ready for the kick off, with a growing crowd of 200 in great spirit looking to this finale event to round off great day. The game started tentatively with both teams not wanting to make a mistake, both packs were strong and from 5 minutes in Argyll knew they were going to have a game on their hands, the pace started to pick up and so did the tackles. Chesapeake, like Fort Lauderdale the week before were coming in off the back of a 7s tournament and this showed in their ability to move the ball across the back line at speed. CPO Jon Oliver and Lt Cdr Ian Bailey at inside and outside centre were certainly very busy, breaking up attacks as was AB(WS) Blake Smith at fly half who had been Argyll's best player all deployment. The deadlock was broken after 10 minutes Argyll were penalised for playing the ball off their feet and the Chesapeake number 10 pointed to the posts and he made his kick to put Chesapeake 3-0 up. For the next 10 minutes Argyll soaked up a lot of the Chesapeake pressure, they were a good running team and what Argyll lacked in ability against their opponents they certainly made up for with sheer determination to not let their opponents break the gain line. As in every game so far every member of Argyll RFC were wearing their shirts with pride and putting their bodies on the line with every tackle made. With the increasing pressure from Chesapeake, Argyll were forced back into their own half and despite their defensive efforts were penalised for coming in at the side and again their Chesapeake number 10 pointed at the posts and slotted the kick to put them 6-0 up with 20 minutes played. From the resulting kick off Argyll managed a good spell of pressure of their own, with the forwards dug in deep to pick and drive at Chesapeake and not give them an opportunity to get the ball and this proved a worthwhile tactic for the Brits as it forced a penalty from Chesapeake and gave them their first opportunity to get some points on the board after Smith pointed to the posts and put it straight down the middle to get Argyll off the mark and made it 6-3 with 10 minutes left in the first half. Shortly after the kick off LPT Sam Sims was replaced on the wing by Lt Ben Eglington after suffering an injury in a tackle and in the blink of an eye Argyll were under pressure again from Chesapeake who seemed to take the points scored against them personally and turned up the pressure. Chesapeake used their backs to great effect and moved the ball quickly along their line and opened up a 2 on 1 break that left Argyll's full back AB(WS) Kieran Dennis with no chance and they ran in under the posts unchallenged, the try was converted and the score line was growing with Argyll 13-3 down with 5 minutes to play. Argyll must have had one eye on half time because Chesapeake managed to extend the score again before the break by catching the boys in green napping as their number 13 crashed through the line, stepped inside and again ran in under the posts to the pleasure of the crowd, again the try was converted and Argyll were 20-3 down at the interval.
Argyll rallied in the huddle and discussed their options; nobody wanted a repeat performance of the Fort Lauderdale game where they were outclassed despite their efforts. ET(ME) Martin Allatt replaced WO1 Graham Bastow in the front row, Argyll re-hydrated and went out for the second half determined to bring the score down and make a game of it.
Either what was said did not sink in to the Argyll players or there was a lapse in concentration but the second half started exactly as the first had finished, with Argyll firmly on the back foot. Chesapeake kicked off and rushed the receiver and in no time had turned the ball over, worked the ball out to their centre who stepped inside the line and ran over unchallenged, leaving the Argyll players looking around bemused as they watched the try being converted and the score board reading 27-3. For the next ten minutes Argyll dug in and absorbed everything the Chesapeake team were throwing at them, they matched Argyll in the scrum and moved the ball along their back line with pace and accuracy, but for some determined tackling and sheer brute force from the Argyll team the scoreboard could have been a lot more demoralising. Then from nowhere the Chesapeake boys ran over the line again, as it looked like Argyll were beginning to tire in the heat of the day and defending the relentless onslaught, they again as they had been doing all game worked the line to have numbers over in the far corner and their outside centre ran round the winger and ran in to touch down in the corner, but they missed the resulting conversion and Argyll were down 32-3 with still 30 minutes to play. Half way through the second half Chesapeake was awarded a penalty when Argyll was too eager to take the ball and they were penalised for playing the ball off their feet. Chesapeake opted for the posts and while their fly half lined up his kick Argyll gathered themselves under the posts and had a few words amongst each other and watched the ball fly between the posts to put them 35-3 down with 20 minutes left to play. Whatever was said during that penalty worked a treat because Argyll decided to wake up, put up a fight and play what has probably been some of the best rugby they have played all deployment. So the fight back began, the pinnacle came with 15 mins left on the clock and Argyll were like a team possessed, they pressed Chesapeake deep into their own half, they didn’t give them an inch, they hit hard and fair and they totally shocked Chesapeake who by now had gone into cruise control. Argyll forced a ruck, committed their forwards and bullied Chesapeake backwards, the ball was worked out to team captain LET(ME) Gareth Willey who off loaded the ball to Oliver who loves nothing more than to run full speed at a defensive line and crash his way through, which is exactly what he did taking 2 of the Chesapeake players with him as he grunted his way through to fully stretch and with inches to spare put the ball down over the line to finally put some more points on the board for Argyll. Smith lined up the conversion and made no mistake, the score now 35-10, could Argyll really come back with such little time left on the clock? The try seemed to pump some adrenaline into Argyll because now they looked like they were playing in the second minute not deep into the second half and their onslaught did not stop there, the forwards again doing a great job in bossing Chesapeake stood firm in the breakdowns, they were like a brick wall of green and black that could not be moved. Oliver had a hand in the next play, after another line crash he was this time held up and before he crumbled to the floor he off loaded to Bailey who made his own surge forward to then work the line and off load to Smith who drove forward and score Argyll's second try in as many minutes. He converted his try and pumped Argyll full of belief that they could salvage something from this game, the score now 35-17. Smith then decided to take matters into his own hands, he received the ball from stand in scrum half ET(WE) Alex Jay about 45 yards out after Argyll had stopped another attempted Chesapeake attack and drove forward, he stepped inside the Chesapeake centre, Smith put a stiff hand off into his chest to sit him down flat on his backside to which even the home supporters were on their feet and cheering. He had taken play by the scruff of the neck and only had the try line in sight, he straightened up, opened his legs and sprinted full speed towards the try line, the Chesapeake full back lined him up and must have thought at that moment he was going to be a hero, not today! Smith stepped outside as he flew straight past him and landing in a heap and with that he paced in with to put the ball down with the Chespeake defence bearing down on him. Uncharacteristically he missed the conversion but had narrowed the score to 35 - 22. Argyll were in firm control and you could see them all grow 6 inches taller at the thought of turning this game around, Chespeake were there for the taking and they knew it! With 5 minutes left, Argyll was buoyed by their sudden run of form whereas Chespeake were shell shocked and rightly so. The comeback didn’t stop there, again Argyll drove forward as a unit, holding strong in the pack and gave Chespeake a taste of their own medicine, the ball was worked from the ruck along the line to Dennis who had joined the attack from full back, he and Eglington charged forward leaving their full back with another do or die decision, Dennis ran straight for him and made the full back's mind up for him, he went in for the tackle but not before Dennis offloaded outside at precisely the right time to Eglington who caught it and ran in from 10 yards out unchallenged to put the ball down in the corner. Smith made the conversion depleted the deficient to 35 - 29 with 2 minutes on the clock. Could this really happen? The answer and sadly for Argyll was no, Chespeake kicked off from Argyll's last try and attacked Argyll, turned the ball over and within 30 seconds of the restart Argyll had their backs to the wall and Chespeake were picking and driving at every opportunity and at the 5th phase they were in touching distance of the Argyll line, their number 8 had picked the ball up and dove forward to touch down just outside the posts for a try that was converted to take the score to 42 - 29 and literally break the hearts of Argyll and all but ensure their victory. The last minute or so was played out as if both teams already knew the outcome, Argyll were deflated, their comeback had failed right at the last minute and Chespeake were relieved to have survived the British ambush. The referee blew the final whistle after Chespeake kicked the ball into touch from a resulting penalty to bring the game to end, but what a game it was. All of the supporters were on their feet applauding the players for what turned out to be a game of rugby played not only with passion and pride but sheer determination from both teams. Argyll certainly upped their game in the second half and if done sooner could may well have salvaged the game, but having taken a bare 19 to the fixture they walked off disappointed but also confident that they could carry that performance into their next fixture. The teams exchanged pleasantries on the field and then mingled afterwards to enjoy what pizza and beer was left over from the football tournament. Argyll leave Baltimore with their next game planned in Vera Cruz, Mexico.
WO1 Graham Bastow (Rep ET(ME) Martin Allatt)
LS(AWW) John Larson
LT James Cooke
LET(ME) Gareth Willey
LAC Graham Richards
LCH Matthew Roberts
S/Lt Beau Henrickson
Lt Cdr Tim Grimley
LS(EW) Adrian McFarlane
ET(WE) Alex Jay
AB(WS) Blake Smith
CPO Jon Oliver
Lt Cdr Ian Bailey
LPT Sam Sims (Rep Lt Ben Eglington)
ET(ME) Adam Townsend
AB(WS) Kieran Dennis (Rep AB(CIS) Martin Conway)
CPO Simon Mugford