RN Senior XV v RAF Senior XV
RN Senior XV
RAF Senior XV
The Royal Navy backed up the early victories from the Mariners and the Women with a tense 10 – 0 win to leave the raucous US Portsmouth crowd happy but exhausted. A game where both packs of forwards never stopped going at each other hell for leather and one that both sides struggled to find space in a claustrophobic game. By the final whistle the Navy had battled to a win with a Dave Pascoe penalty and conversion alongside a Ben Priddey try. “Gwrys yn Kernow” as they say and for those from East of the Tamar, it translates as, 'made in Cornwall'.
The opening quarter of the game was like a boxing match; probing jabs, testing the defences, the odd flurry of activity when a half break was made only for the defence to shut the door shut and the two teams to start again, circling to find the weakness. The first clear cut chance fell to the Air Force. Byrne, their fly half stepped the defence and was rewarded with a clean line break and space behind the Navy’s defence. Humphrey was there to make the covering tackle but it looked as if the RAF forwards would sweep over the ball to secure the priceless second phase possession. From nowhere, the industrious Dom Taylor was over the ball, his nose at toecap height, hands on the ball he should have won the turnover but instead was rewarded with the threat relieving penalty and a blow to the head. Whether it was this or the occasion, it seemed to transform his game and for the first time this season the Navy faithful were able to see why he won the Cossack Sword last year.
As the half progressed, the Navy gradually began to find their rhythm and they started to pose the RAF some problems of their own. However, they were unable to maintain the continuity of possession as too many knock-ons or forced plays in contact led to the ball being turned over. They suffered a further set back with the early loss of Tom Cowley, first to the sin bin for a high tackle, and then permanently due to a slight injury which saw the Navy reshuffle their pack with Gaz Evans coming on to Number 8, Dave Fairbrother moving to flanker and Matt Harvey joining Marsh in the second row.
The Royal Navy kept building their momentum and finished the half ahead on points if not on the scoreboard. A missed Dave Pascoe penalty had come back off the post and the forwards had nearly driven over on two occasions. However with half time reached and the score 0-0 it was clear that the home support were getting a little nervous.
The nerves must have been infectious because it was the RAF who started the second half more brightly. They took the game to the Navy and showed quite a bit of invention in their back play. However the Navy’s defence was watertight and kept the RAF at arms length with only a long range penalty, missed, to show for their efforts. As had been the trend all day, the Royal Navy then had to endure another Yellow Card, the second of the match and the sixth of the day, something that all the coaches will wish to reflect on. This time it was flyhalf Nathan Huntley who was dispatched, but the obstruction by Cochlan, the cause of the altercation, went unpunished.
Once more with fourteen men the Navy showed their character and absorbed the RAF’s pressure before asserting some authority. A deliberate knock-on from the RAF gave Pascoe a second opportunity but this time the kick was pushed wide. However the reprieve was short lived, and when the forwards won a penalty at a scrum, Dave opened the Navy’s account for a 3-0 lead. The score transformed the team and from the kick off they were soon back on the attack. At last the backs found some penetration and avoided contact as they moved the ball up the length of the field with Humphrey, Tichias and new cap Eldon Myers all contributing. The pressure led to the RAF carrying the ball over and an attacking 5m scrum. The Navy pack went for the push over try but were thwarted by an illegal wheel and just when everyone was thinking the Navy would take another scrum, Ben Priddey backed himself, took a quick kick and ducked under a pile of RAF bodies for what turned out to be the only try of the match. Pascoe added the extra and with just over ten minutes to go the Navy at long last had some breathing space.
As against the Army last week, so again the RAF showed that they are an emerging team that is full of character and no little talent. Refusing to accept defeat they lifted their game from the restart and once more made the Navy return to the effectiveness of their defence. Like the Women, earlier in the day, the team showed that they had the resolve and the work rate to absorb, repel and eventually drive back anything that the RAF could throw at them. With the clock ticking past the eighty minutes the RAF ran a last minute tackle only for replacement centre Dale Sleeman to mark his last game at US Portsmouth with a trademark bone shaking tackle, the ball lost forward and the referee’s whistling signalling the end of the game.
Some wins are less pretty than others and the team know that they will need to address a number of concerns before the Army Navy match on Saturday night, 3 May. However they will take immense satisfaction for keeping their line intact and finding a way to win against a determined and rapidly improving Air Force team.
Royal Navy: K Mason *+, B Priddey *, J Terry *, TCowley *, M Cormack *, M Harvey *, D Taylor *, DFairbrother *, D Pascoe (C) *, N Huntley *, E Myers, MTichias *, S Davies *, J Fleckney *, J Humphrey * Reps: H Collins * +, K Beasley *, S Laird *, G Evans *, RVakalavalu *, J Stephen *, D Sleeman *
Royal Air Force: T Coghlan, S Philpott, D Manning, R Craig, J McNally, D Johnson, R Bell, A Tibbatts, J Challenger, A Byrne, L Owen, T Gardner, A Gillespie, A Robinson, T Mann Reps: M Tustin, R Craig, B Cook, IDownborough, M Clarke, D Hill, P Thomas, J Reid
Referee: Max Marsden (ARURS)
Images by Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones& © Lee Crabb