RN Women start the journey to Twickenham


RN Women



Suz Badger breaks through
Nic Elvidge looking for space
Megan Musgrave with support challenges the Trojan defence
Emily Park with support from Megan Musgrave
Yvonne Mealy attacking the defence
Billi Staite, Suz Badger & Megan Musgrave defending
Sarah Jenkins surrounded by blue

Royal Navy Women’s XV took the first tentative steps on the road to Twickenham. Playing a powerful team from Trojans RFC (Eastleigh) the Navy were comprehensibly beaten but will learn from this and be a better side for it. The future is bright.

On a dry chilly night at Burnaby Road, the Royal Navy Women’s Senior XV took to the field in the first game of their season on the journey to play the Army, for the first time on the hallowed pitch at Twickenham. With many new players and inexperienced players this match was going to prove a huge learning curve.

Kicked-off by Trojans fly-half (10) taken by Navy Prop Katie Ives (1), passed to lock Yvonne Mealy (5) and taken into contact only to be turned over illegally by the opposition. Penalty to RN, kicked by fly-half Cheryl Goodwin (10) but failing to find touch, collected and taken into contact by Trojans, only to be penalised on the halfway line. Penalty to Navy, kicked by Goodwin, finding touch between the Trojan 10 and 22 lines. Lineout lost, however awarded a free kick, tapped by Goodwin but lost in contact and kicked by Trojans. Taken at pace by Navy fullback Abi Ashby(15) into contact on the opposition’s 10 metre, but the referee stopped the game for an injury to a Trojans player. Restarted with a scrum to Navy, won, but with slow ball, fed by scrumhalf El Bythell (9) to Goodwin who with the Trojan back row in close attendance coughed the ball up. With Trojans spinning the ball wide, Navy winger Billi Staite (11) put in a crunching tackle on her opposite number, winning a penalty in the process, and Goodwin finding touch from the kick close to halfway. Losing the lineout the Navy defence was tested as Trojans attacked. After a ruck, Trojans centre Sarah Jenkins’s (13) and long serving Navy player, kick was half charged down, from the resultant ruck Trojans attacked only to knock on, scrum Navy on their 22. Penalised again for a scrum infringement, Navy were handed a free-kick, taken by Lock Yvonne Mealy (5) into contact Trojans reacted quickly forcing the Navy backwards. Scrum Trojans inside the Navy 22. Winning the scrum, Trojans attacked along the back line, with forwards clearly on the front foot and providing quality ball, Jenkins attacked the Navy line, stopped on the try-line the ball was recycled and Trojans were over the try-line. RN 0 – Trojans 5 – 10 minutes played.

With Goodwin restarting the game, easily taken by Trojans 6 and taking contact on their 10 metre line to draw in the defence and moving the ball along the line only to be forced into touch just inside the Navy 22. Lineout won by Navy lock Helen Stevenson (4) and driven creating a ruck before being shipped by Bythell to Goodwin and on to Badger. However with the Navy going backwards it was for Hooker and captain Emily Park (2) to steady the ship, taking the ball into contact enabling Goodwin to find touch. With Trojans camped in the Navy half for long periods of time and neither side able to create more than two or three phases before unforced errors brought play to a halt. With the Navy defending gallantly, something had to give! On 30 minutes Trojans were awarded a penalty on the Navy 22, taken quickly and moved along their back line where 13 kicked cross-field, missed by the defender the winger was able to pick up the ball and score out wide, with a successful conversion by 13 – RN 0 – Trojans 17- 31miuntes on the clock.

After the restart, Trojans were again camped inside the Navy half attacking with pace and purpose, although in their haste they were not immune from making basic unforced errors. This allowing the hard working Navy defence to regroup before losing possession, sometimes it was just a matter of running out of defenders. On 37 minutes Trojans were on the Navy 5 metre line when Jenkins kicked into the corner for the winger to score the 3rd try which was unconverted.

Half time – RN 0 – Trojans 22.

After 40 minutes it could be seen the Trojans were a well-coached side quick in thought and deed, with experienced players skilled in game management, with match experience and years of playing together. For the Navy whilst defending much of the time, tackles were made, teammates were supported, and effort was made throughout to make a difference. The second half would be a long test of character for this very young team of sailors.

With the Navy kicking to restart the game, Trojans received the ball, aggressively picked and drove into the Navy defence. Creating rucks with quick ball to draw in the defence, before the scrumhalf fed the hooker who was turned over by the Navy backrow of Gemma Flowers (6), Musgrave and Emily Howard (8). Passing to Staite, the winger moved at pace into the oppositions half, taking contact and rewarded with a scrum, sadly won by the Trojans against the head. With the ball released by the nine to Jenkins who controlling the game moving left and right looking for weakness in the Navy’s defence. The Navy’s defence held firm until the game was again stopped to allow attention to an injured player. With the break the Navy unloaded the bench with Nic Elvidge (20) replacing Sian McLaughlin (13), Anne-Marie McIntyre (19) replacing Stevenson and Louise Worsfold (21) going to fullback, Ashby moving to the wing with Staite coming off. Restarting with a scrum to Trojans followed by a ruck turned-over by the Navy forwards to attack the opposition defence, recycling the ball quickly at the breakdown for Goodwin to find space and fed the supporting Mealy (5) close to the left hand touchline, only for the game to stop for another injury. Attacking again Trojans moved the ball to Jenkins who went into contact and robbed of the ball, Badger counterattacked driving deep into the opposition defence before being tackled, recycling the ball Park (2) passed to Bythell who released Musgrave to rampage through the Trojan defence, making hard yards before being hauled down on halfway. Trojans win the scrum and playing 15 man rugby quickly moved into the Navy 22 and scoring in the corner, conversion missed. RN 0 – Trojans 27 – 55 minutes gone.

Restart by the Navy kicking long into the Trojans 22, where Musgrave following up the kick was able to tackle the ball carrier before an attack could develop, but unable to stop the ball being recycled. Back on the attack Trojans again taking contact to use the ruck as a means to pull in the Navy defence before releasing back line. With the Navy defence scrambling to cover the never-ending opposition attacks Trojans entered Navy 22, with the backrow picking up a loose ball and driving for the line before being tackled. Quickly recycled the ball was driven over for a typical forwards try, which was converted. 20 minutes to play RN 0 – Trojans 34.

Taking the opportunity to make further changes the Navy Hannah Cole (17) replaced Pack and Gemma Walker (18) replacing Gemma Flowers (6). With the Navy going backwards after the restart under severe pressure from the Trojan forwards recycling the ball quickly and only stopped when penalised for going off their feet at a ruck. Penalty to Navy, with a booming kick from Worsfold the pressure was relieved. Navy lineout inside the Trojans 22, however indiscipline handed the ball back to Trojans to kick to touch. Back on the offensive Trojans kicked into the Navy 22, collected by Worsfold and returned low into the opposition half – knock-on. Scrum to Navy. On 67 minutes Rachel Carragher (22) entered the fray replacing Abi Ashby. With Trojans still controlling the game, running the ball aggressively and at pace using all 15 players the Navy were continually under the cosh, showing courage, repelling wave after wave of attackers the Navy stood their ground, however after a scrum on the Navy 5 metre line, No 8 picked up and drove mob-handed over the line to score, with the conversion successful – RN 0 – Trojans 41 – 71minutes on the clock.

Worsfold with another booming kick deep into the opposition 22 restarted the game, where Trojans knocked-on – Scrum Navy – Bythell fed Badger in what looked like a promising move only to be penalised for a forward pass – scrum Trojans. With the Navy on the back-foot there were some very tired bodies, they never gave up or let their heads drop, however they were overrun when Trojans scored the final try of the game, successfully converted to bring the score to RN 0 – Trojans 48 with 3 minutes to play.

After the restart the Navy doggedly fought on, tackling time after time forcing the opposition backwards. Just before full time one tackle will stay in my mind for some time – with Trojans moving the ball along the back line to No11, Musgrave hit with aggression and power, driving her back and to the ground, getting to her feet shocked and stunned wondering what had happened. That was worth the admission price alone!!!

Final score – RN 0 – Trojans 48

The second-half performance, although not reflected in the score was much better, with more aggression in defence, making Trojans fight for every yard and a willingness to attack on the rare occasion they had worthwhile possession.

After the game an un-named source revealed that most of the Trojans team are playing regular quality club rugby and have played for their county, additionally No 13 is currently part of the England U18 Development Group. Whilst it was a very difficult evening for the Navy players, against very strong opposition they showed courage, enthusiasm, team spirt and a never say die attitude. Nobody let their mates down and can be proud of their performances – 1 to 22.

There is much for the coaches to work on. With some experienced players, including Sarah Jenkins to return there is huge potential within the squad. All have the potential to win a Navy cap or add to those they already have, some this season will achieve that goal whilst others will need a bit more time. Well done ladies.

Question – what is the definition of vision? To have vision you must have a view of where you want to be and a plan to get there. If you only have a view it is a daydream!!! Your TSG has a vision, buy into it, work hard, get better, support each other and encourage others to join in. But most importantly enjoy the journey. I look forward to your next game at Yeovilton on 19 Feb 20.

Quotes –
Head coach Lieutenant Commander Charlotte Fredrickson RN said - For the first game of the senior season we had an unprecedented number of girls available for both training and the game. We took this as an opportunity to try out new players and combinations, so a relatively inexperienced team took the pitch against Trojans. The foundations of how we want to play were evident, so this was a good baseline performance, but work remains to be done. With experienced players due to return to the side in the coming weeks I am excited to see how this group develops before we hit Twickenham in May.

Royal Navy Women’s XV – 1. Katie Ives, 2. Emily Park (Capt), 3. Lucy Honeybell, 4. Helen Stevenson, 5. Yvonne Mealy, 6. Gemma Flowers, 7. Megan Musgrave, 8. Emily Howard, 9. El Bythell, 10.Cheryl Goodwin, 11.Billi Staite, 12. Suz Badger, 13.Sian McLaughlin, 14. Emma-Tegan Morley, 15. Abi Ashby. 16. Alice Kightley, 17. Hannah Cole, 18. Gemma Walker, 19 Anne-Marie McIntyre, 20. Nic Elvidge, 21. Louise Worsfold, 22. Rachel Carragher.
TSG – AdoR – Paula Bennett-Smith, Team Manager – Jane West, Head Coach – Charlotte Fredrickson, Asst Coach – Loz Salisbury, S&C Coach – Emma Ochiltree, Video Analysis – John Manners, Team Physio – Mark Povey.

Match officials – Kindly provided by the Royal Air Force Referee Society. Referee – Fl Lt Phil Ware, Asst referees – FO Dave O’Boyle & Sqn Ldr Tom Gallagher.

Words: Tommy Atkins
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © Keith Woodland