Royal Navy Under 23s Retain Inter Service Title!
RN U23 XV
On a cold, clear evening in Portsmouth, Royal Navy Reservist Rory Penfold led the Under 23 team onto the pitch, knowing that the next 80 minutes would decide the 2016 Under 23 Inter Service championship. With a win against the Army already under their belts, the odds were stacked in the Navy's favour, but it would have been foolish to underestimate the RAF team, who had held the Army side to a draw and whose results have been steadily improving throughout the season. However, it was the home team who ended the evening victorious, winning 10 - 0, confirming their dominance of the Under 23 IS Rugby by claiming the Inter Service title for a second year.
The Navy took control of the game in the first quarter, pinning the RAF in their own half. Playing expansive, free flowing rugby they worked through the phases forcing the RAF to defend hard. Despite a couple of chances, they were unable to convert the possession into points and the score remained 0 - 0.
In the second quarter, the RAF team started to come together, wining possession and crossing into Navy territory. However, it was not long before the Navy regained control of the game with a clever steal, working the turned over ball back down the pitch to the RAF 22. From a line out at the 10 yard line, the Navy employed their trademark driving maul but failed to gain momentum to get across the line. Under pressure, the RAF were penalised for being offside and Gareth Rees kicked for the corner. Having been camped deep in the RAF half, the Navy capitalised on the penalty, and were rewarded with a try as Eldon Myers, recently returned from operational deployment with the Joint Expeditionary Force Maritime (JEF(M)), touched down to put the first points onto the scoreboard for the Royal Navy. Rees made easy work of the conversion and the Navy took the lead, 7 - 0.
From the reset the RAF were keen to get a score of their own but the Navy had other ideas, keeping them in the middle of the pitch. Then the Navy conceded a penalty and the RAF opted to kick for the posts. From just inside the Navy half, the RAF fly half, Officer Cadet Hayler, made an impressive kick that narrowly missed the goal. The score remained 7-0 as the half time whistle blew.
During the break, Pulman replaced Gallagher who had taken several knocks in the first forty minutes. It was a bright start to the second half by the RAF who took the game to the RN; some confident passing allowed them to build momentum down the pitch. Now on the back foot, the Navy were forced to defend. In a similar pattern to earlier, the RAF were awarded another penalty and opted to kick for points; once again they were disappointed.
Possession shifted from one side to the other and the crowd of supporters were treated to some very enjoyable rugby. The Navy showcased the strength of their line out and performed much better in the scrum than they had done against the Army, despite the size advantage of the RAF. Desperate to get points on the board, the RAF tried again to kick a penalty at goal but as the Navy had managed to keep them out of their 22, and despite the skill of the kicker, this tactic failed to reap any dividends.
It was the Navy who were to make the next score, with Rees kicking a penalty conversion to extend the Navy lead 10-0. With over 15 minutes left to play, the Navy decided it was time for some fresh legs and Burton and Hughes were replaced by Allton and Salt. The visitors knew their chances of making a comeback were dwindling and pulled out all the stops, throwing everything they had at the home side. Each wave of RAF pressure was superbly defeated, turned over and cleared by the Navy. Their defence was solid but the continued pressure eventually told. Following an infringement the Navy found themselves down to fourteen men for the remainder of the match as the referee showed a yellow card to replacement Brierley.
As the clock ticked down, the RAF kept their heads up, looking to take advantage of the extra man, but the home side defended resolutely, repelling the light blues, working hard to cover the gap. The final score was 10 - 0 and the Royal Navy were the Inter Service champions. The RAF team had played well, but the Navy side dominated possession in the first half, and kept the RAF out of their 22, and in the second half the Navy defended their lead, preventing the RAF from crossing the line.
After the match Lieutenant Commander Rob O'Kane, Assistant Director of Rugby, presented Tom Hughes with the Brian Weeks award. He said "Commander Weeks would have approved of the high tempo, all action game that the U23s have played this season. Rugby is a team sport but it often requires an individual to ensure the team comes together. The award goes to Tom Hughes who has done exactly that." Rob is rightly proud and delighted with the team's performance. He is stepping down as the Assistant Director of Rugby now and handing over to Lieutenant Commander Aidan Riley who will have the dubious honour of leading the team next season to try to make it three Inter Service title wins in a row. #GoNavy
Team List: Vernon, Hughes, Burton, Makepeace, Mason, Cunningham, Papp, Roberts, Rees, Burgess, Gallagher, Basher, Myers, Power, Penfold. Replacements: Salt, Skinner, Allton, Wilkinson, Brierley, Pulman, Mills, Jones.
Team Manager Naughton, Head Coach Williams, Assistant Coaches Hillan, Evans, Steele. Physio Mrs Berry.
Words by - Director of Communications - Lieutenant Commander Sarah Oakley
Images Royal Navy Rugby Union / © John Walton