RN Under 23's v Ealing Trailfinders
Sunday saw the RN Under 23s take to the hallowed turf that is the home of Royal Navy rugby – Burnaby Road. National 1s Ealing Trailfinders academy travelled from the capital and provided the opposition for the U23s first match of the season.
Due to inclusion of many youngsters in the Senior XV trip to New Zealand for the commonwealth cup, the U23s season has been condensed in to a short 2 month season with matches almost every weekend running into the Inter-Services competition. Sunday’s line-up included of the experience Commonwealth Cup tourists ETMESM Sam Benzie, ETME Jack Basher and MUSCN Edd Pascoe who was given to honour of leading the side out for the first time.
The Navy kicked off and regained possession in the early minutes with some good ball retention before conceding a penalty to allow Ealing to clear their lines. The next ten minutes saw the RN show some good aggressive defence, with turnovers being created, but a lack of coherency and too many mistakes hindered the opportunity to put together constructive phases of play in attack. Maybe this was to be expected so early on for a new group of players. A wild pass inside the Navy’s own 22 saw the green and whites pile the pressure on and a quick tap penalty from 5 metres out saw the first score of the day, with the Ealing right wing go over in the corner. From the touchline the scrum half duly added the extras 0-7. Again the RN regained their own kick off and big carries from both 2nd Rows, Edd Pascoe and AB Ben Roberts, enabled the first forage deep into Ealing territory. The following patient build up created extra men on the right hand side and Jack Basher took advantage, sliding through a gap to put the Dark Blue on the score board. In his new role as the duty goal kicker, Sam Benzie added the 2 points. This time it was Ealings turn to regain their own kick off. Moving the ball wide, an attempted interception by Benzie with one hand was deemed a penalty that the Trailfinders no 9 knocked over with ease from the 10 metre line to give the away side 10-7 lead. With new faces in the side trying to impress and the old leading from the front, the Navy were in no mood to roll over, with big hits from No8 CH Sulasi Naulivou and Captain Pascoe causing knock-ons that created set piece opportunities deep inside the opposition half. After a sustained period of pressure, on the half hour mark a quick tap penalty 25 metres out saw scrum half MNE Jordan Shuttleworth weave his way to the try line, despite a desperate attempt to tackle him inside 10 metres of the mark. Benzie was unable to add the conversion on this occasion pushing it to the right of the uprights. Unfortunately, despite the excellent performances of debutant props ETME Ben Williams and ETWESM Callum Frogley, the Navy were penalised just a minute before half time for driving in on the angle at the scrum. Once again the 9 making light work to take three points.
The second half began well with Hooker, MUSCN Harrison Marsh, turning over ball at a breakdown on halfway and fly half AET Greg Loydall pushing a grubber kick into the corner of the Ealing 22. With the U23s piling on the pressure, a loose pass enabled the Trailfinders Winger to show his pace and run in a try from 75 metres out to give the visitors the lead against the run of play. The tough conversion from the touchline was missed. This put the Middlesex club in the ascendancy and when a loose kick was caught on the half way line by the blindside flanker, a charging run and some swift hands put the pacey winger in space for him to go over again, putting the visitors two scores in front. Again the difficult conversion was missed. On the hour a decision was made by both sides to abandon the game. Seconds after the restart an unfortunate neck injury to the Ealing outside half brought play to a grinding halt. Both Navy and Ealing medical staff were on the spot in seconds, working in tandem to ensure all precautions were taken. On arrival of the ambulance and a thorough assessment by the paramedics it was pleasing to see the player be able to get to his feet to leave the field.
Final Score 12-23.
Overall a good exercise for the team against tough opposition, with the majority of the 28 players getting an opportunity to show the Team Support Group what they are capable of in the Navy Blue jersey. Despite a degree of rustiness, the talent on show was clear to see. An air of excitement has begun to grow in a season where the U23 XV look to regain the Inter-Service trophy after coming so close the last two years.
The U23s next fixture is against Brighton University 26 Oct 14 1400KO at Burnaby Road.
Images by Alligin Photography / © John Walton