Royal Navy Weather Hampshire Storm
RN Senior XV
The Royal Navy overcame a slow start, at a very wet but packed USSG Portsmouth on Wednesday night, to extend their unbeaten run to eight matches with a hard fought 23-12 victory. Hampshire had by far the better first half and were looking comfortable with a 12-3 lead as half time approached. However, a Silvenusi Buinimasi try late in the half provided the change in fortune the Royal Navy needed. A much more fluent second half display saw then take a semblance of control in a dogged and at times feisty encounter to secure the victory and regain the Wight Link Bowl.
Aficionados will wax lyrical on the subtlety of colour and even monotone grey has it’s varied shades, according to the literary world. Last night the Royal Navy played in their change strip of grey, darker than the battleship grey to be found alongside Fountain Lake Jetty but much lighter than the dark skies overhead that had unleashed so much rain to make the USSG a heavy, quagmire of the pitch that sapped the strength and tested the skill sets of both teams.
It was Hampshire who were the first to settle and had by far the better of the opening half hour. Having only come together as a squad this week it bodes well for their County Championship matches later in the season. They brought with them the Wight Link Trophy which has not been played for, for over a decade, and following the opening skirmishes it looked as if they would be taking it home, this time for safer keeping so it doesn’t get mislaid for so long!.
An early Huntley penalty could not disguise that the Royal Navy were under pressure and Hampshire deserved the opening try which was the result of a strong, driving maul after a penalty kick to the corner. With the conversion nailed they enjoyed a 7-3 lead and were further buoyed when the Royal Navy were reduced to fourteen men with Ben Chambers sent to the sin bin following a tackle in the air. And it was through their kicking game that Hampshire added further misery with their second try of the night. This time it was opposite wing, Seta Raumakita, who got his timing wrong and from the spilled ball Hampshire were able to squeeze into the corner for the try. 12-3 and the Navy had spent most of the game in as miserable a position as the conditions.
Restored to a full XV the Royal Navy were still unable to maintain possession or get field position and would probably have taken 12-3 at half time and the chance to re-group in the changing rooms. But, just as at Esher, the team showed that given the sniff of an opening, they can cause damage. A rare foray in to the Hampshire half, poor, slow possession was rescued by a deft Huntley kick through and Silvenusi Buinimasi was first to the touchdown as he slithered over the line. Huntley added the two points and despite the conditions the Royal Navy had a far warmer glow as the half time whistle was blown.
The score before half time became the defining moment of the match and Hampshire never really recovered. Though they still enjoyed good periods of possession they were not really troubling the home team’s defence which remained water tight and battened down for the whole of the second period. The necessary changes for fresh legs did not alter the cohesion that was now being shown and with more ball of their own the Royal Navy were able to ask questions of their own.
Given the conditions it was unsurprising that their second try was off the back of another punishing maul, with Dave Fairbrother being the one to drive over from close quarters through a tired looking Hampshire defence. Humphrey took over the kicking duties before adding two more penalties which were the result of the pressure they were now putting Hampshire under.
The 23-12 final score was an excellent turn around after the opening half hour but as the team now prepare to face Marine Nationale they will be aware that in some areas further work will be required before they reach Toulon. A second yellow card, this time to Chris Warner, for a no arms tackle, could have put them under more pressure and similarly a couple of half chances for further scores were not taken, Mat Tichias coming particularly close. However overall given the conditions it was a solid result, that extends the winning run to eight matches, adds a piece of silverware to the locker and sets the team up well for the challenge of Le Crunch. However, with the Paris-Nice cycle racing being abandoned for the day yesterday due to snow there is no guarantee that there will be drier grounds and sunshine on the Mediterranean coast. C’est la vie!
Royal Navy Senior XV v Hampshire
Royal Navy Senior XV: Chris Robinson, Ben Priddey * (Capt), Chris Warner, Edd Pascoe *, Ollie Mason, Dave Fairbrother, Jarrard Hayler *, Timo Kava, Cory Moore, Nathan Huntley *, Seta Raumakita *, Mat Tichias *, Silivenusi Buinimasi *, Ben Chambers, Rhys Dimmock-Williams
Replacements: Harry Collins * for Timo Kava, Harrison Marsh for Chris Robinson, Dom Taylor * for Ben Priddey, Ben Watson for Ollie Mason, Gareth John Rees for Cory Moore, Greg Loydall for Mat Tichias, Jon Humprey * for Rhys Dimmock-Williams, Richard Cadywould for Nathan Huntley
* Denotes capped player
Images by Alligin Photography / © John Walton