Inverdale Challenge RN West v Fleet Air Arm
RN West v Fleet Air Arm
In the final heat fixture of the Inverdale Challenge the RN Western Region welcomed the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) to the Rectory, Plymouth in what turned out to be an enthralling game. The FAA knew a victory would secure them a place in the final and started the game at an extreme intensity which caught the West cold and allowed the FAA slick backs to cut through the West's defence and score their first try under the posts after only 3 minutes of play. The try was then converted to give them an early 0-7 lead. The FAA dominance in the pack continued and this led to another try which gave the Wafus a comfortable 0 - 12 lead inside the first 10 minutes. The second try created a reaction in the West's team, which resulted in a sustained amount of possession and territory inside the FAA 22. Despite this the FAA defence held firm for over 10 minutes and repelled every attack the West threw at them. Despite being under pressure the FAA forwards dominance allowed them to move through the phases and take command of the game again giving them territorial advantage deep inside the West half. After 33 minutes a turn over for the West was loosely kicked away into space and was gladly collected by the FAA centre. Despite a good defensive follow up from the kick the FAA centre showed his class and exceptional footwork by beating 5 defenders and racing in under the posts for their third try of the game to give them a 0-19 lead. After the third try, the West team seemed to drop the heads and straight from kick off the FAA cut open the defence and scored their fourth try in the corner to give a half time lead of 0-24.
Despite the score reflecting a very one-sided game the West players were still very upbeat during the half time team talk. As soon as the second half kicked off the West looked like a totally different team with replacement fly half Sub Lieutenant Tupholme pulling the strings and utilising his forwards and backs to run at the opposition which started to create gaps in the FAA defence for the very first time. The pressure soon paid off with centre Corporal Bent crashing through and powering over the try line to put the West's first points on the board. The West's try seemed to wake both sides up and resulted in both teams attacking at every opportunity with some exciting running rugby on show. It was equally matched by some big hit tackles with the West's Sergeant Strickland and Able Seaman Williams putting in their fair share of hits despite the evident size difference between the packs. With both teams looking to attack at every opportunity this created space all over the park which then allowed the West's left wing Able Seaman Kurusassa to use his pace and step to beat 2 defenders and score in the corner to decrease the deficit to 12-24. With the West very much back in the game the FAA started rolling on the substitutes looking to re-take their strong hold in the game. Again after some loose kicking the FAA moved the ball through their pacy backs but were held up just short by a rugged West defence. The resulting 5 metre scrum gave the FAA much bigger dominant pack the platform for a push over scrum to increase their lead to 12-31.
With the game looking very much over and with 20 minutes to go the West were not quite done and bounced straight back. They broke through the tiring Wafu defence to score a third try from Sub Lieutenant Johnson to bring the score line to 19-31. With both teams continuing to attack and defend well it was apparent that the next score would be vital to the outcome of this fixture. Despite continued attack the FAA defence stayed strong and after a turnover went through their phases and scored another try which all but put the final nail in the coffin for the team from the West Country, taking the score to 19-38. With 5 minutes to go the West re-gathered from their kick off and finished with a flurry putting the FAA defence under constant pressure. The pressure was soon rewarded with a second try for Johnson giving a final and well deserved score of 24 - 38 to the Fleet Air Arm.
Team List: LMA Winfield, SLt Hughes, AB Reid, AB Stoppard, SLt Bolton, Sgt Strickland, AB Williams, LH McDonald, Mne Hinds, AB Weale, AB Burrell, AB Jones, Cpl Bent, AB Kurusasa, AB Black, PO Harris, LH Street, SLt Johnson, AB Ellis, AB Coupland, SLt Tupholme, AB Williams.
Words by J Kern
Images Royal Navy Rugby Union © Mark Andrews