Royal Navy Overcome Early Season Rustiness in Comfortable Opening Win
RN Senior XV
A flawless opening five minutes was followed by a mix of frenetic, forceful and at time frustrating rugby as the Royal Navy beat Blackheath 25-17 in a lively encounter at the Rectory Field. Though always in control and capable of some excellent play the Navy’s match rustiness showed, at times, as they failed to fully shake off a determined and dogged Blackheath team. They will have benefitted from the much needed shake down and have solid foundations to their game as they approach Fiji, in the opening match of the International Defence Forces Rugby Cup but know that they will need to reduce their unforced error count if they are to reach their evident potential.
After another stunning autumnal day the clear skies ensured that from the outset the pitch was soaked from early forming due. And though this was to prove problematic to some of the handling for much of the match it was not evident as the Royal Navy made a perfect start. From the kick off they exerted early pressure and forced Blackheath into conceding a defensive lineout. Quick ball was moved wide by Nathan Huntley as the backline probed for Blackheath weakness. Though not forthcoming a second lineout was forced. This time Jarrad Hayler was brought into the attack and as he looked to link and again move the ball wide he noticed the Blackheath defence had drifted early, stepped back against the grain and was able to break the tackle and outstrip the cover defence for the opening try in the left hand corner. A Jon Humphrey conversion from the touchline finished off the perfect start as the Royal Navy enjoyed a 7-0 lead.
From the restart they were again on the attack with Johnny Stephen probing the fringes of the Blackheath defence, the forwards clearing the breakdown at pace and Nathan Huntley bringing variety in the game. However too often the greasy conditions caused a miss handle and instead of being prepared to check their play and rebuild, the Royal Navy looked to force the miracle pass and as a consequence put themselves under pressure and allowed Blackheath to turnover possession too often. It was through such frenetic Royal Navy play that Blackheath were able to build back into the match and they made the Navy pay as they levelled the score when their forwards drove over from a short range lineout.
For much of the rest of the half the pattern continued as all too often promising Navy attacks broke down through a miss-directed or forced pass. However, with a very forceful defence, that had good line speed, was committed and organised the Navy were able to maintain pressure for much of the half. With time running out towards halftime it looked as if they would have to be content with a three point lead, a Humphrey penalty having been added to the opening score. The lack of a second try was clearly proving frustrating to the Royal Navy side as a number of chances had been created and at times squandered. But they were rewarded when they finally managed to piece some phases together and skipper Ben Priddey crashed over after a number of short range forward drives. Nathan Huntley converted and at half time the Royal Navy enjoyed a deserved half time lead.
It was always going to be the case that the second half was marked by a number of changes as the Royal Navy ensured that all the IDRC squad had some match time. It was pleasing that throughout this disruption that, on the whole, with only one noticeable lapse, the defence remained organised and strong. The Royal Navy should have added to their first half tries but again it was a lack of precision that prevented them extending their lead, the nearest they came was a drop goal attempt from Richie Cadywould which was pushed wide.
However on the whole they were controlling the game and it was therefore a little surprising, though deserved, that as the game approached its final fifteen minutes it was Blackheath who were able to force the breakthrough and score their second try. A fitting reward for some good phase play that finally stretched the Royal Navy defence. With the conversion missed the Navy’s lead was cut to five points.
The Navy’s response was immediate and probably exactly what the coaching staff would have wished for. Clean, crisp high tempo rugby was too much for the Blackheath’s defence and they were quickly having to scramble as the Navy moved the point of attack and made good ground. Some excellent clearing kicks temporarily relieved the pressure but following an excellent break by Matt Bowden the ball was brought back inside and Seta Raumkita finished a sweeping move for the Royal Navy’s third try. A Cadywould conversion was, inexplicably not given but the ten-point lead had been restored.
And it was Cadywould who was to finish the scoring. After the Navy’s defence had had their one serious lapse of the night, to allow the Blackheath centre to cut back inside and score through beating three would be Navy defenders, the Navy were again in the nervous position of only being a single score in front. A second Cadywould attempt at a drop goal, as the referee played advantage, was sweetly struck and sailed through the posts for what proved to be the final score, 25-17 to the Royal Navy.
The highlights of the evening had been the defence with both Jarrad Hayler ad Seta Raumakita on the flanks winning a number of turnovers after some solid midfield tackling. Jarrad’s play with ball in hand, which included a number of clean linebreaks made him man of the match. The lineout was solid all evening and the Navy proved that their high tempo, high intensity rugby is very effective. However, to unlock their full potential they need to reduce the unforced errors so that they can build the pressure for longer periods and capitalise on the numerous linebreaks and half chances they are creating.
It was a good shake down, with no apparent injuries to the squad. All the players will have benefitted from the match time and will no doubt be looking to raise their game by a notch or two as they make their final preparations before they play Fiji on Thursday.
Royal Navy Starting XV: Blackburn, Priddey (C), Hill, Lamsin, Pascoe, Raumakita, Hayler, Fairbrother, Stephen, Huntley, Bowden, Tichias, Buinimasi, Welling, Humphrey
Replacements from: Collins, Burton, Cragg, Bartlett, Fox, Cooper, Jones, Loydall, Bamford, Benzie, Chambers, Cadywould, Davies T, Davies S
Pool 1 Round 1 US Portsmouth Thursday 8th October
Japan v New Zealand - KO15:00
Royal Navy v Fiji - KO 19:00
Round 2 US Portsmouth Monday 12th October
Japan v Fiji - KO15:00
Royal Navy v New Zealand - KO 19:00
Round 3 US Portsmouth Thursday 15th October
Fiji v New Zealand - KO15:00
Royal Navy v Japan - KO 19:00
Images by Alligin Photography / © G Ashton Jones