Royal Navy U23s v Hampshire U20s




Hampshire U20

Hampshire try to get the better of Craig Jones
Scott Makepeace returns to the U23 team after his season with the Senior XV
Mills’ kicking was on form
After a summer of playing 7s rugby Ben Jeacock returns to the 15-a-side game
RNRU Trials weekend attendees played during the match against Hampshire U20s

The Royal Navy Rugby Union U23s ended their trials weekend with a full 80 minute match against the Hampshire U20s team at Burnaby Road, Portsmouth.  For the Royal Navy the aim of the match was to give all those attending the trials the chance to show their skills on the pitch, hence a slightly modified form of the game – being split into quarters and allowing full changeovers of players every time.  The aim was achieved but against a strong Hampshire side the result did not go the way of the home team and the visitors won the day 10 – 21.

To mark the start of the U23s season, Assistant Director of Rugby, Lieutenant Commander Aidan Riley, opened the event to all comers in an open trials weekend. Under the watchful eye of new head coach, Warrant Officer, ‘George’ Hillan, assistant coaches, Chief Petty Officer John Court and Logistician Sili ‘B’ Buinimasi and team manager, Leading Communications Specialist ‘Pony’ Moore, 36 young sailors and marines gathered at Fort Blockhouse to be put through their paces.

The Training Support Group (TSG) is led by head coach Hillan who has plenty of coaching experience with the RNRU in past seasons having coached the RNRU Mariners to an Inter Service victory and more recently having spent two seasons with the Women’s team.  He also assists with grass roots training, community level rugby development and has spent time with the RNRU Senior XV training camp.  Always on the lookout for new talent to bring through from the community area into the representative teams George was pleased with the attendance at the trials and keen to get stuck into the season ahead.

John Court, from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, started to move into the coaching side of navy rugby over the past couple of years.  Having played in the Senior XV for many years he is now keen to develop his coaching skills and pass on his experience to the new players joining the Service.  ‘B’ Buinimasi is the head coach for the RNRU 7s team, the Sharks, and he also brings with him his wealth of experience from playing the 15-a-side game with the Senior XV.

Team manager, Pony Moore, last year’s RNRU Volunteer of the Year, is an experienced team manager; this summer he successfully co-ordinated the attendance of 3 RNRU 7s teams at tournaments across the country.  Working alongside head coach George at HMS Collingwood, he also has coaching skills, usually seen employed at Chichester RFC.

The match on Sunday was a great way to finish off the trials weekend.  The TSG had the opportunity to see different combinations of players working together.  In the first two quarters the play was fairly evenly matched but when the Hampshire side got a break they were able to capitalise upon it scoring one try per quarter, both of which were skilfully converted by the Hampshire outside centre.  

The player combination on the pitch for the Royal Navy in the third quarter started to take the upper hand and were rewarded by a try in the right hand corner as prop Sam Vernon propelled himself over the line.  Mills’ successful conversion took the scoreboard to 7 – 14, and when a few minutes later he kicked a penalty for another 3 points the Royal Navy were back in contention 10 – 14.  This pressure from the home side prompted a reaction from Hampshire who were determined not to let go of their lead, scoring a third converted try for the final score of the match 10 -21.  

By the final quarter, both sides were beginning to tire and the drizzle was making conditions slippery on the field.  Both teams had had a good run out, and Hampshire will clearly be delighted with their strong performance so early in the season.  For the Royal Navy side, this is the start of their journey to the Inter Service competition in November and they will be looking to make it 3 wins in a row, after the success of their predecessors in 2015 and 2016.  Come along and support them on their journey!   

The Royal Navy Rugby Union U23s will be in action again on Sunday 8 October taking on Cambridge University at Burnaby Road, Portsmouth KO 1400 (free entry) and then they travel to Chichester RFC on Wednesday 11 October KO 1900.   

Images Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton and Keith Woodland