Marine Nationale (Feminines) Retain Trophy
RN Womens XV
Marine Nationale Feminines
It was the closest match of the series by far. However after taking an early lead the Royal Navy (Women) succumbed to a determined Marine Nationale (Feminines) side, who by the end had scored five tries to retain the trophy 27-3.
With the pre-match presentations complete the fifth match in the series between the Royal Navy (Women) and the Marine Nationale (Feminines) kicked off at a sun drenched US Portsmouth ground. With the sun and wind on their backs the home side started the better of the two teams and soon had the visitors under pressure. In the early exchanges it was strong running from Stacey Hargrave and Anne-Marie McIntyre that kept the Marine Nationale (Feminines) on the back foot. Under constant pressure the French team conceded a succession of penalties and though the Royal Navy (Women) ran the first few they were repelled by stout Marine Nationale (Feminines) defence. Eventually skipper Loz Morton pointed to the posts and Sam Alderson converted for a 3-0 lead.
The score lifted the siege and from the restart the visitors had better field position and gradually eased themselves in to the match. Number 8, Henault, showed that she could match Hargrave with her runs from the base of the scrum whilst in flyhalf N’Diaye they had a player who started to control the game both with ball in hand and with some astute tactical kicking. The Marine Nationale (Feminines) forwards began to starve the home side of possession and but for committed defence from the Royal Navy (Women) they could have scored a couple of tries.
Eventually though the continual attacks told and with the Royal Navy (Women) simply running out of numbers in defence the Marine Nationale (Feminines) inside centre, Lechenault, was left with an easy run in for the first try of the match. N’Diaye missed the conversion but French had a 5-3 lead. This was extended to 10-3 by half time when he fellow centre, Pros, crossed following another French sweeping attack that started on the half way line and was set up by a clean break from the increasingly influential Henault.
The second half, playing in to the wind was always going to be difficult for the Royal Navy (Women). They job was made harder through the loss of full back Isobel Rawlinson with a serious looking ankle injury sustained when making a last ditch cover tackle. From the restart the Marine Nationale (Feminines) were quickly on the attack and it was Pros who crossed for her second try, converted by N’Diaye.
In truth the game was now secure for a Marine Nationale (Feminines) victory but they were never allowed to settle by a committed Royal Navy (Women) team who harried the visitors all game. When the opportunity arose the Royal Navy (Women) looked to attack but too often couldn’t maintain the continuity required to breech a well structured French defence. By the end of the match N’Diaye had crossed for a well deserved try and Lechenault had scored her second to extend the lead to 27-3. This turned out to be the final score as it was the Royal Navy (Women) who finished the game on the attack although unable to score that elusive try.
The victory extends the Marine Nationale (Feminines) winning record but this was by far the closest game of the series. For the first time in the Royal Navy (Women)’s comparatively short history caps were awarded for the game with starting hooker, Alice Kightly, having the honour of being the first to be awarded a cap at the game against the French. However for those involved in the Women’s game the cap awarded to replacement, and Assistant Director of Rugby (Women), Kirsty Marlor, will be particularly well received as she has followed ably in the significant footsteps of her predecessor, Paula Rowe, to ensure that Women’s rugby continues to grow even in the current difficult operational circumstances.
Congratulations to Garnier and her team who keep hold of the trophy and as they re-build their team will no doubt be as formidable as ever next year in Toulon. For the Royal Navy (Women) this was a massive step forward in their season and should give them some confidence when they meet to prepare for the challenge of the Royal Air Force Women at RAF Halton on 15 April.
Images Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones & © Lee Crabb