Royal Marines Regain Inverdale Challenge Cup With Powerful Display
Fleet Air Arm
Despite the wind and rain, the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Marines produced a fitting finale to the 2015/16 Inverdale Challenge. In the end it was the all-round fluidity of the Royal Marines game, controlled by their halfbacks Glastonbury and Cadywould that laid the foundations for a 28-12 victory by four tries to two. With the two sides having won the trophy for the last eleven years the Royal Marines now edge the recent series 6-5 in what remains the fiercest of Inter Region rivalries.
A luscious top surface to the USSG Portsmouth pitch belied what lay beneath and it wasn’t long before both teams realised how heavy the pitch was going to be. Playing into the wind in the first half the Royal Marines worked hard in defence and were able to prevent the Fleet Air Arm from establishing any continuity. Eventually though it was the monster Fleet Air Arm pack that began to shape the game in the first half.
With their halfbacks not firing, the Fleet Air Arm reverted to a tighter, close driving game aided by a dominant scrum and some astute tactical kicking from flyhalf Sam Carter and fullback Andy Vance. Despite valiant first up tackling, the Royal Marines found they were unable to prevent the Fleet Air Arm from keeping hold of possession and gradually exerting some control on the game. It was unsurprising that the opening score was from a Fleet Air Arm maul. However what did surprise the Corps defence was the deft show and go from Fleet Air Arm tight head prop, John Court, before his inside pass found scrum half Cory Moore who crossed from 5m. Sam Carter was successful with the conversion and the FAA were 7-0 after twenty minutes.
With the wind on their backs they needed to capitalise on their opening score but were unable to do so as the Royal Marines came straight back in to the game. An easy penalty from fly half Richard Cadywould reduced the lead to 7-3 before a mix up in defence gifted the Royal Marines their opening try.
With the game being conducted in the middle of the field, neither side were able to gain control. Having already shown his trademark broken field running to win their opening penalty, Royal Marines Number 8 Gaz Evans, clearly needed a break from the heavy pitch as he launched a speculative kick up field to no where in particular. It should have been an easy gather and clear for the Fleet Air Arm defence but the bounce of the ball and an inability to keep their feet on the heavy pitch allowed the ball to roll free and it was the hard working Corps openside flanker, Conor Harbiston, who reacted first to gather and score. With Cadywould adding the conversion the Royal Marines had edged in front 10-7 with half time approaching.
Knowing that they would be playing in to the wind and driving rain in the second half the Fleet Air Arm probably had to score next and were able to press the Royal Marines back deep in to their 22m area as the half drew to a close. However again they could not find any continuity through their backline and the Royal Marines were once more able to thwart their attempts to attack wide and turn over possession. A needless Fleet Air Arm penalty allowed them to complete their exit and from the resulting lineout Richard Cadywould used the decoy running of Evans to split the defence. His thirty metre gain was maintained by some good combination between the Royal Marines forwards and backs before the ball came back to Cadywould who calmly landed the drop goal with the last kick of the half. The Royal Marines headed to the changing rooms well pleased with a deserved and hard won lead, 13-7, that was to prove a platform for a dominant second half.
The opening of the second half again saw the Fleet Air Arm suffer with their inability to control the Royal Marines kicking game. This time it was a diagonal kick from Cadywould that put winger Binns under pressure and when he was unable to gather the Corps left wing, Adz Baird, was on hand to grubber through, gather and run in from 50m. Though Cadywould was unable to convert from the left touchline an 18-7 lead looked to be a match winning one.
It is a credit to the Fleet Air Arm that they responded immediately and probably through their best rugby of the match. With the ball at last going to hand they finally produced some precision attack with Greg Loydall making a couple of good breaks and flanker Dan Kennedy providing the link to maintain the continuity. A wayward clearance kick from the Royal Marines was returned strongly when Ben Chambers and Andy Vance combined down the left touchline before the ball was moved right with lock forward Mark Pollard being on hand to crash over and score. 18-12 with still half an hour to play.
It was to prove a half hour too far for the big Fleet Air Arm pack. Despite the inclusion of replacements, the heavy pitch and the wider game plan from the Royal Marines had combined to sap the strength from their legs. Though the heavy rain was now hampering their passing game the Royal Marines were fully in control of the match and their forwards rubbed salt in to Fleet Air Arm wounds by using the Air Arm’s favourite rolling maul tactic against them. On the second occasion it rumbled towards the Fleet Air Arm goal line with admirable control to provide the securest of platforms for man of the match, Conor Harbiston to peel off and score his second try of the evening. Richard Cadywould added the conversion to stretch the lead to 25-12 before killing the game off with a simple penalty in front of the posts to make the final score. 28-12.
All that was left was for John Inverdale to present the players medals and then Jendy Weekes to present winning captain, Ryan Morris, with the Surg Capt (D) John Inverdale Trophy, named after her father a former Secretary of the Royal Navy Rugby Union. Morris dedicated the win to former player Mike Young-Husband who had tragically lost his life in December in an accident when travelling back to camp. Young-Husband had been part of the Royal Marines team that had defeated the Fleet Air Arm 27-22 in the opening game of the 2015/2016 Inverdale Challenge Competition and his teammates had produced a cup winning performance of which he would have been proud.
Fleet Air Arm: Chris Warner, Dan Lowe, John Court, Mark Pollard, John Lamsin, Ben Watson, Dan Kennedy, Chris Thompson (Capt), Cory Moore, Sam Carter, Ben Chambers, Greg Loydall, Rich Hall, Rich Binns, Andy Vance Reps: Jake Reynolds, Ash Wakefield, Paul Mortensen, Jim McLauchlan, Ryan Cox, Matt Holland, Ben Lenderyou
Royal Marines: Tom Jones, Harry Collins, Shayne Closke, Rob Holbrook, Ryan Morris (Capt), Henry Lort, Conor Harbiston, Gaz Evans, Guy Glastonbury, Richard Cadywould, Rob Hayes, Loz Blackburn, Griff Jones, Adz Baird, Luke Warrington Reps: Dewi Pearce, Matt Thurston, Joe Staniforth, Luke Hopkins, Beanz Hinds, Rss Sayer, Josh Taubale
Images by Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones