Royal Navy Women Beaten but Unbowed
RN Women XV
Marine Nationale Feminines
From the outset of this match the Royal Navy were under pressure as the home side monopolised the early possession and kept the Royal Navy deep in their own half. For a side that was forced in to so many late changes the fact that the Royal Navy Women’s defence held as well as if did for so long is a credit to the team. However eventually yield it did and this allowed the Marine Nationale Feminines to gradually build their lead before retaining the Entente Cordial Trophy 34-3. Both in the first half and second, the Royal Navy did produce some attacking opportunities of their own but were unable to cross the French goal line. Anne Marie McIntyre, Eileen Tuivaga and Rhiann Dilmore all won their RN Women caps but it was a day for the Marine Nationale Feminines and in particular their player of the match, centre Eva Dourthe.
Captain Charlotte Fredrickson will not be disappointed with either her own performance or indeed the commitment shown by her side. Starved of early possession the first twenty minutes seemed to be played entirely in the Royal Navy 22m. Under intense pressure occasionally the tackles rode high and this allowed the home team to turn the screw with a succession of 5m scrums and lineouts. As wave after wave of Marine Nationale Feminines attacks were launched, the Royal Navy Women stood firm and managed to keep their line intact. Three times the ball was held up in ‘In Goal’ as the Navy players continued to maintain their intensity in defence. Eventually, on 24 mins, it was left wing Vanessa Payan who found some space wide out to cross for the opening score which was converted from the touchline by Dourthe, who had earlier landed a straight forward penalty.
Perversely the score allowed the Royal Navy Women to relieve the pressure on their goal line. Finally, they were able to win and retain some possession and take the game to the home team. However, they could not breakdown the Marine Nationale Feminines’ defence who always seemed to be able to get numbers to the breakdown. A fine break from centre Eileen Tuivaga did provide a half chance and then a penalty but though Oli Critchley made ground from her quick tap and go she lost her support and the fleeting opportunity was lost.
With the half drawing to a close the Royal Navy Women’s task was then made much harder as Tuivaga was shown a Yellow Card for a high tackle, with the team having already been warned the referee had little choice but to despatch her to the sin bin. With one less in the defensive line the Royal Navy Women were soon back under pressure. Again they held up the Marine Nationale Feminines in ‘In Goal’ but from the resulting scrum they could not stop the blind side move that allowed flanker Linda Kacem to cross, despite winger Georgie Rowley doing her best to get her body under the tackle. 15-0 and so it remained until half time.
The start of the second half saw some early RN Women pressure and this allowed Loogle Worsfold to get them on the score board with a well taken penalty kick. However, it was to prove the only points on offer as the Marine Nationale Feminines continued to ensure the game was played predominantly in the Royal Navy Women’s half. First their industrious hooker, Milena Soloch, crossed for a try before two tries in quick succession from centres Dourthe and Estelle Perron put the result beyond doubt with fifteen minutes still to play despite the home side playing without lock Perrine Verbrughe in the sin bin following pulling hair in a tackle.
That the Marine Nationale Feminines did not further extend their 34-3 lead during this period said much about the spirit shown from Fredrickson’s side. Though still predominantly defending they kept challenging Marine Nationale Feminines and a couple of well worked counter attacks gave glimpses of what may have been it they had been able to have a little more cohesion earlier on. However, the succession of injuries sustained last week at Plymouth Albion had forced a number of short notice changes. Though to an extent covered in defence it was in their attacking play that the Royal Navy Women seemed to suffer the most from this enforced disruption.
There was enough on show to provide optimism as they prepare for the looming Inter Services and a home encounter with the RAF on 20th April. They just need to hope that a couple of their injured players return in time, although they may have to move forward without wing Rowley who was forced off with ligament damage to her ankle. A hard fought encounter which ensure the Marine Nationale Feminines extend their unbeaten run but a number of positives for the Royal Navy Women to work on as they prepare for the RAF and the Army.
Royal Navy Women: Pippa Hutchinson, Alice Kightley, Kate Parkman, Anne Marie McIntyre, Helen Stevenson, Sam Bannard, Charlotte Fredrickson (Capt), Stacey Hargrave, Olivia Critchley, Louise Worsfold, Megan Collyer, Fiesha Greene, Eileen Tuivaga, Georgie Rowley, Laura Blagden
Reps:, Pam Williams-Wilson for Eileen Tuivaga, Emily Howard, Rose Gleghorn for Alice Kightley, Lynne Martin for Megan Collyer, Rhiann Dilmore for Anne Marie McIntyre, Abi Sandack for Georgie Rowley
Images by Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones