Richmond Vikings v Royal Navy Senior XV
RN Senior XV
As previewed, there were a number of changes to the Royal Navy team that took the field this week against the Richmond Vikings. The Navy coaching staff were again keen to expose the different combinations under game conditions and this fixture provided exactly the right backdrop. Richmond Vikings have been going well this season and the Navy were in no doubt that this fixture would be a step up from the contest last week’s contest.
From the Royal Navy perspective, the fixture provided exactly what they needed for the second game of the training camp – a coherent well-coordinated side with a robust and mobile pack that looked to exploit every weakness presented. Despite some last minute changes during the warm-up, the Navy took to the pitch under the guidance of LA (AH) Ben Priddey and set a high tempo from the outset . The first 15 minutes were predominantly in Naval control holding both field position and possession, but despite camping in the opposition Red Zone the Navy failed to convert the pressure into points.
As the game continued, so the RN penalty count grew, essentially reducing pressure on the opposition. That, coupled with some ineffective kicking, and Richmond were able to establish better field position and create some dominance of their own. To the Navy credit – the defence was solid all night and a major positive was both the organisation and the commitment with which they covered the Richmond attacks. The subsequent yellow card awarded against the Navy 7 (Mne Seti Raumakita) for team offences at 30 mins meant that the more dominant Richmond scrum was now able to exert even more pressure close to the line. They finally succumbed to the inevitable scrummage pressure and increasing penalty count as the Referee awarded the first of two penalty tries.
Second half – a re-invigorated Navy side now complete again were able to establish better field position and dominance and after a passage of well-constructed phase play, engineered a well worked try close to the posts for LA (AH) Ben Priddey with subsequent conversion by Mne Nathan Huntley. 7-7 and the Navy were back on level terms with 30 minutes left to build towards a final leading score and close out the game – but it was evident that the Richmond half time changes had generated more resilience in the scrum, where they were now exerting visible pressure at every set piece, while their change at scrum half also seemed to have initiated greater energy from their back line. Despite the Richmond control, the Navy defence maintained its solid stance and despite only having 34% possession, the game never really looked to be getting away from us, maybe just the penalty count. Richmond’s field position and scrum dominance meant that we were vulnerable close to our line and the subsequent second penalty try for repeated scrum penalties was given with only 5 minutes to play. A second Yellow card against the Navy (Lt Hugo Mitchell-Heggs) for a basic error only effectively sealed the contest, and the last Richmond try in the final minute was built off another dominant scrum that the Ref would probably have awarded another Penalty try if they hadn’t scored.
19-7 the final score – lots to work on but some really major positives evident after what was a very competitive robust game. The RNRU Director of Rugby, Cdr Mark Deller, commented that he was delighted with the standard of game and the Navy commitment, “it gave us exactly what we needed in the early stage of this training camp, while highlighting those specific areas that need to be addressed by the coaching staff – a really good fixture”. The Richmond Vikings Coaching staff commented that this was probably the closest their team had been pushed this season and as such acknowledged the strong defensive commitment of the Navy side. Throughout LA (AH) Ben Priddey demonstrated his prowess and led well as Captain, while the RN centre partnership of L/Cpl Matt Tichias and AB Sam Davies delivered a strong coherent defensive performance in the mid-field while Mne Greg Welling showing great strength and resilience on his wing with very little space to operate. Mid Grahame Butterworth played his first representative game in Navy colours as an RNR officer; an ex-Havant RFC thoroughbred he is the current United Services Portsmouth RFC head coach, who are still on an unbeaten 13 match winning run.
The Navy Squad is undoubtedly making good progress and we will be working hard on positional field kicking and correcting the issues leading to the higher than normal penalty count, which ultimately resulted in the 2 penalty tries that proved the decisive factor against Richmond.
The Royal Navy Senior XV take on Worthing RFC at Burnaby Road at 19:45 on 24 Feb 15. Just a reminder that on 1 April the French Marine Nationale come to Burnaby Road in the first capped game of the season before the Navy meets the challenge of the Royal Air Force, at RAF Halton, to open the 2015 Inter Services on 15 April. With the season finale again likely to sell out Twickenham on 9 May - make sure you get your tickets through the RNRU Website.
Report by Mark Deller and Mark Walker
Match Reporter Chris Roberts
Images by Alligin Photography / © Lee Crabb & © G Ashton Jones