Lessons to be learned from impressive Oxford side
RN Senior XV
Oxford University RFC
An inexperienced Royal Navy Rugby Union Senior XV travelled to Oxford to face a well-drilled Oxford team preparing for their Varsity match against Cambridge in December. The aim of the match was to expose a range of new players, many identified at the recent RNRU talent spotting roadshows, to a higher level of rugby.
It was cold evening in Oxford as the two teams stepped onto the pitch. Sam Benzie, experienced Royal Navy Rugby Union 7s player and frequent team captain for the Sharks, led his team out. The Navy team were a mix of junior, relatively inexperienced players, many of whom had come to the attention of the team management at the recent series of Rugby roadshows held at various locations around the country. They were boosted by the addition of two Senior XV capped players, prop Aaron Wilman and fly half, Greg Loydall.
Oxford took full advantage of playing at their home ground, familiar with the unusual breadth of the pitch. Aggressive in attack, it wasn't long before they found a gap in the Navy defence and the scrum half, Tresidder, touched down for the first try of the game. It was skilfully converted by fly half and team captain, Humberstone.
The Navy side, wearing their away kit of white shirts, blue shorts, responded, taking the initiative and pressing into the Oxford half. Oxford defended well but after a period of pressure conceded a penalty. Greg Loydall stepped up for the kick and put the first points on the board for the Royal Navy, 7 - 3, with ten minutes played. Unfortunately these were to be the only points for the visitors.
From the restart, the Dark Blues mounted another attack; however committed tackling from hooker Williams, fresh from his international appearance for the Philippines in the Asia Rugby Championships, foiled the attempt. But a couple of minutes later, the Oxford inside centre broke through for the second try of the match, 14 -3.
The experienced Oxford side continued to get the better of the Navy team, stealing line outs and over-powering them in the scrum. However the Navy team continued to look for opportunities and kept defending hard. The final score of the half came from a scrum set piece, with flanker, Pozniak, crossing the line for another 5 points. The try was not converted and the half time score was 19-3.
The first try of the second half came after 4 minutes of play, scored by hooker, Henry. The conversion, kicked by replacement Jackson, first hit the post but made it over to increase the Oxford lead 26 - 3. The Navy team management made several replacements, keen to expose all their players to the experience of playing at a higher level. However this didn't improve the integration of the team. Thereafter the Oxford side dominated play, scoring a try approximately every 7 minutes. The final score was Oxford University 50 - RNRU 3.
Speaking after the match, Assistant Director of Rugby for the Royal Navy Senior XV, Major Scott Ashley, spoke about the attitude of his players and how pleased he had been with their performance, they held their heads high and never gave up. Clearly there are many lessons to learn. The aim was to give the new talent a focus for the remainder of the year, to identify what they need to work on in the coming weeks and months to improve their chance of being selected to join the Senior XV training camp next year. This aim had definitely been achieved.
Team list: 1. AB K Allton 2. LET L Williams 3. LCpl A Wilman 4. Mne D Mason 5. AET H Wilkinson 6. LA(SE) A Wakefield 7. Mne T Papp 8. Mne L Cooper 9. Cpl K Bridgen 10. AET G Loydall 11. Mne R Williams 12. ETME(MESM) S Benzie (team captain) 13. Mne R Cooper 14. Mne B Davis 15. Mne C Duncan
Replacements 16. PO B Roden 17. LA(AH) C Ellor 18. AET J Reynolds 19. Mne D Plant 20. AB(D) T Price 21. Log M Tuinabunawa 22. Mne C Slader 23. AET B Dennett
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton