Royal Navy U23s v Havant RFC at Burnaby Road




Havant RFC U20

Centre Matt Bratton tries to evade a Havant player
Brad Janes added two tries to the scoreboard
Hooker Rory Bonnick made a good start against Havant
Showing his speed out on the wing – Royal Navy Reservist Rory Penfold

There were several changes to the Royal Navy Rugby Union Under 23 side who stepped out behind captain Ben Watson on Wednesday evening.  Fleet-footed Rory Penfold started on the right wing and Sunday's try scorer Scott Makepeace moved from the backrow to the second row.  It was a fast paced, high scoring match however the recently-formed home side were unable to overcome the experience and cohesiveness of the Havant team with the final score RNRU U23 29 Havant RFC 37.

It was a fresh still night at the United Services sports ground and the Navy side started well playing some good running rugby and making several forays into the opposition 22.  Despite this it was Havant who scored first, with a drop goal taken in front of the posts, to take the lead 0 - 3.  The Navy responded quickly, with Nick Burgess and Rory Penfold finding space to penetrate into the Havant half but they weren't able to reach the line and it was not long before Havant regained possession and more points were added to their score with a converted try. The visitors had a 10 point lead and the Navy were yet to score.

There was further disappointment for the home side when inside centre, Matt Bratton, was injured and had to leave the field; he was replaced by Tristan Trehan making his first appearance for the U23s this season, following several outings for the RNRU Sharks, the Navy 7s side, throughout the summer.

Now it was the Navy's turn to convert possession into points.  Repeated pressure at the Havant 5 yard line resulted in the award of a penalty against the visitors.  A quick tap was taken resulting in Tom Hughes powering over the line and putting the RN U23s on the scoreboard Navy 5 - Havant 10.  With confidence high, another try, this time scored by Brad Janes, came shortly afterwards and the scores were level at 10-10.  

The Havant side regrouped and applied pressure deep inside Navy territory. The Navy defended hard but it was only a matter of time before Havant scored again, adding a converted try to retake the lead 10 - 17. With half time fast approaching the Navy were keen to stay in the game and with some swift handling the ball reached Royal Navy Reservist, Tim Weale, who scored his first try for the U23s.  Half time score RNRU U23s 15 Havant 17.

Several changes were made to the Navy side during the break, with Gareth Rees, Liam Williams, Dan Mason and Sam Brierley coming onto the pitch, however the pace of the match didn't slow and there were 2 tries, one for each side, in the first 7 minutes of the second half.  Havant scored first but couldn't convert, then Brad Janes scored his second of the match and Gareth Rees added a further 2 points with the conversion to level the score 22 - 22.

Again Havant were hungry to regain the lead, and took the fight to the Navy.  Under pressure, the Navy conceeded a penalty deep in their own half and the visitors opted to kick, adding 3 points to their total.  Havant kept the pressure on and quick running and skillful passing created space out wide for another try to add to their tally, extending their lead, Navy 22- Havant 30.        

Keen to make use of their full squad, Tom Hughes, Chris Mills, Rory Bonnick and Scott Makepeace were replaced by Sam Vernon, Craig Jones, Issac Salt and Hayden Wilkinson.  8 points down, the Navy pushed hard for a break through.  After some slick handling in the backline Rory Penfold showed a great turn of pace and made a break down the left wing but, lacking support, he couldn’t make it to the try line.  The U23 side had several chances but a combination of ill-discipline and unforced errors prevented them scoring.  But this didn’t stop them from keeping the pressure on and their persistence and determination eventually paid off as Dan Mason crossed the line for a try which was converted by Gareth Rees closing the gap to within a point. Navy 29 -Havant 30.

The spectators were treated to an entertaining final five minutes as the Navy pushed hard to take the lead but it was Havant who got the last try with the final score Navy 29 – Havant 37.  It was a very enjoyable, action-packed contest at Burnaby Road and the U23 side should be pleased with their performance against a strong Havant A side.  The next outing for the U23s will be away against Cambridge University on 16 October, kick off 1400.      
Team Josh Skinner, Rory Bonnick, Tom Hughes, Ben Watson (Captain), Scott Makepeace, Jack Basher, Campbell Cunningham, Ben Roberts, Nick Burgess, Chris Mills, Adam Gallagher, Matt Bratton, Brad Janes, Rory Penfold, Tim Weale, Isaac Salt, Ash Miller, Hayden Wilkinson, Sam Brierly, Sam Vernon, Dan Mason, Gareth Rees, Craig Jones, Gerran Smith, Liam Williams, Tristan Trehan.

Images Royal Navy Rugby Union / © John Walton