Royal Navy Recapture the Power of Seven
RN Senior XV
From the ancient Egyptians, through Greek and Chinese science to modern day mathematicians, the number seven has always held exalted status as a special number, the symbol of perfection. For the Royal Navy it is now two matches, two successive comprehensive wins and seven tries on both occasions. And though no-one would say that either performance was ‘perfection’ both against Cambridge University and again last night, against Esher Cardinals, the Royal Navy have produced performances that have caught the eye. Their 46-5 win over Esher Cardinals was disciplined with few errors. It was built on solid defence and a high work rate and the ability to take their opportunities when they arose in clinical fashion. Stronger tests await but this was a better performance than against Cambridge University and if the improvement continues then next week’s home game against Oxford University, should be well worth a trip to Portsmouth.
On a foul evening, the Royal Navy kicked off playing in to a slight wind but having to cope with heavy rain, rain that lasted throughout the whole match. To their credit both sides coped well with the conditions despite some early handling difficulties under the high ball. It was Esher Cardinals who settled the more quickly and monopolised possession for the opening twenty minutes. However, they found no reward from a Royal Navy defence that had very good line speed and an intensity that was a step up from their opening game. Good discipline prevented the Cardinals getting easy gains as time and time again the home side found themselves pushed back by the relentless Navy tackling.
As the half reached the thirty minutes mark, the Royal Navy slowly began to exert themselves. Some strong carrying from Kava, Fox, Pascoe and Mason allowed scrum half Cory Moore to get on the front foot and through some sound box kicking and use of the blindside he was able to keep Esher Cardinals pressed deep in their own half. When the ball was being moved slightly wider, the conditions were clearly favouring the defence and too often Matt Tichias was finding himself engulfed as the ball arrived. Unable to go around or through the Esher Cardinal’s defence the Royal Navy introduced some much needed variety and went over them. With the forwards producing more good possession, the diagonal kick to in goal was perfectly placed and fullback Jon Humphrey won the race to touch down for the opening score. He was wide with the conversion and short with a subsequent close range penalty but the score lifted the Navy’s performance. With increased tempo they soon had the home side on the back foot. Some scrappy play and an inability to clear their lines saw Esher Cardinals concede a lineout on their 22m line. Quick thinking from the Royal Navy, as they took the quick throw, left the home side’s defence in disarray and Edd Pascoe was on hand to claim the Royal Navy’s second try with only a couple of minutes left in the half.
No one thought there was time for a third. But from the restart the Royal Navy secured possession and again the ball was kicked ahead. The conditions prevented it being easily controlled and the all fashioned hack ahead was executed with no little skill as winger Ben Chambers showed both his footballing skills and his pace to claim the try as the last play of the half. With Humphrey adding conversions to both tries the Royal Navy, seemingly from nowhere, had established a commanding 19-0 lead as they sought the dry sanctuary of the changing rooms.
The second half was dominated by the Royal Navy. Two early replacements were made with Harry Collins coming on at hooker with Ben Priddey moving to flanker and Ben Fox making way after an industrious forty minutes. The second saw the exciting Under 23 fullback, Rhys Dimmock-Williams replace Jon Humphrey. It proved to be a dream introduction for Dimmock-Williams who opened the scoring in the second half after only two minutes play. Good breakdown work by flanker, Jarrard Hayler, turned defence to attack and when given space just over twenty metres out, Rhys did not need a second invitation, to race under the posts for the fourth try, which Greg Loydall converted.
Further changes by the Royal Navy did not detract from the quality of the play they were now producing. Matt Tichias gave way to Richard Cadywould in the backs. Whilst Ben Watson and Lewis Cooper were given the last half hour as replacements for Ollie Mayson and Timo Kava respectively in the pack. And it was the forwards that were now exerting a vice like grip on the game.
Repeatedly pinned in their own half, the home team began to concede penalties allowing the Royal Navy to kick to the corner. Twice they set up driving mauls, the first produced a try for Harry Collins, as he was driven over, whilst the second, following more good ball from Edd Pascoe was well defended. However, the Navy forwards were patient and re-set the play and Collins added a second as he drove around the side of the ruck and broke through the final Esher close range defence. With Cadywould adding one out of his two conversion attempts the game was over as a contest and the Royal Navy were deservedly 38-0 in front.
It was the forwards, again, who set up field position, for the Royal Navy’s seventh try of the night and fittingly it was skipper Ben Priddey who was on hand to claim it. Having led from the front, all evening, his tireless play at the breakdown provided good support to the work of Hayler over the ball and as the match wore on, he became more effective as a first up ball carrier as Moore and then replacement scrum half, Gareth John Rees, looked for support to punch around Esher’s fringe defence. Less than ten minutes to play and his try had put the Royal Navy comfortably 43-0 in front.
Perhaps a little too comfortable because having secured their seventh try, they allowed Esher Cardinals back into the game and for the first time since the opening quarter the home side enjoyed some continuity of possession. They were rewarded with a consolation try following some sloppy defence that will not have pleased the Navy’s coaching staff. However, from the restart the Royal Navy once more exerted their superiority and Cadywould landed a penalty goal with the last kick of the match to record a well deserved victory 46-5.
‘Septem maria’, those who crossed the Seven Seas, were praised by the ancient Ventian sailors, as a mark of mariners who had great skill. There is still along way to go in the 2016 Inter Service campaign but in very difficult conditions the Royal Navy side showed no little skill to record their second consecutive seven try victory. Weather can be a leveller to performance, but Ben Priddey will be pleased at the way his team produced a performance that suited the conditions, was disciplined and committed and most importantly was reflected on the scoreboard. A first home game of the season awaits next week, when the Royal Navy host Oxford University, where they will again need to show improvement if they are to continue the early momentum of the season.
Royal Navy Starting XV v Esher Cardinals:
Chris Warner, Ben Priddey * (Capt), John Court *, Edd Pascoe *, Ollie Mason, Ben Fox *, Jarrard Hayler *, Timo Kava, Cory Moore, Greg Loydall, Matt Bowden *, Matt Tichias *, Silvenusi Buinimasi *, Ben Chambers, Jon Humphrey *
Replacements: Harry Collins * for Ben Priddey , Chris Robinson (not used), Keith Lister for Chris Warner, Ben Watson for Ollie Mason , Lewis Cooper, for Timo Kava, Gareth John Rees for Cory Moore, Richard Cadywould for Matt Tichias, Rhys Dimmock-Williams for Jon Humphrey
* Denotes capped player
Royal Navy v Oxford University, 24 February, USSG Portsmouth, Kick Off: 19:15
Images by Alligin Photography / © John Walton & © Geraint Ashton Jones