Royal Navy Women’s Development Squad in action
Women Development XV
In their second match of the season, the Royal Navy Women’s Rugby Development side met Portsmouth Valkyries Ladies at HMS Temeraire. Despite the poor weather, there was plenty of action on the field and lots for the training support group to get excited about.
The match was played on HMS Temeraire’s 4G artificial pitch on a typical November evening of drizzle with the occasional heavier downpour. The coaches agreed to play 2 twenty minute quarters and a final half of 40 minutes.
Portsmouth started with a well-placed kick fielded by the Abi Sondack (8) just over the 10 metre line. The ball passed to Helen Stevenson (18) who attacked the Portsmouth defence. The ball was lost in the subsequent ruck with a scrum awarded to Portsmouth. After a scrum reset Portsmouth attacked close to the scrum with Loogle Worsfold (10) making an outstanding tackle resulting in a Navy penalty. Worsfold found a good touch deep in the Portsmouth half. Although the lineout was lost the Navy put pressure on the Portsmouth defence driving them back into their 22. Portsmouth recovering their composure attacked with pace to halfway where the attacker was meet by a huge tackle by Sondack. Good start by the Navy.
With both teams trying to gain an advantage play generally concentrated between the two 22s with plenty of errors by both sides leading to scrums and penalties. Portsmouth were the more successful in crossing the gain line with the Navy defending stoutly for periods of time, frustrating the attackers into making errors instead of being patient, recycling and going again. For the Navy Worsfold was prominent relieving the pressure with long kicks into touch pushing Pompey back into their own half and having to start all over again. In this period the Navy mounted a couple of notable attacks, having won a scrum on their own 10 metre line the Navy scrumhalf Drew Powell (9) passed to Worsfold who attacked the defence sucking in defenders before passing to Suz Badger (12) who accelerated into the Portsmouth defence taking out two players before passing to Josie Parnaby (11) who when tackled knocked the ball on. Shortly after the Navy won a penalty which Worsfold kicked into touch on the Portsmouth 22, the Navy won the lineout and again it was Worsfold who attacked the defence recycling the ball when tackled but the assault petered out and the defence cleared their line.
First Quarter – RN 0 Portsmouth 0
Almost directly from the restart the Navy attacked the Portsmouth line. Navy fullback Tegan Morley (25) showing considerable speed drove into the Portsmouth 22 before being hauled down on the defenders’ 5 metre line. Following a couple of rucks and mauls Worsfold, with defenders hanging on to her, crossed the line to score a try which she converted. Navy 7 - Portsmouth 0.
Portsmouth’s reaction was quick and direct with attacks by both forwards and backs inside the Navy 22 causing the defence to transgress for offside on the try line. Portsmouth attempted to go quickly resulting in a knock on, scrum to Navy who relieved the pressure via a kick to touch by Worsfold on the halfway line. Portsmouth’s lineout was judged not to be straight and the subsequent scrum was won by the Navy who took the ball aggressively into Portsmouth’s defence and were rewarded with a penalty for a high tackle. The kick by Worsfold failed to find touch bouncing several times on the hard artificial turf and over the try line for a 22 dropout. Portsmouth returned to the attack forcing the Navy to defend deep in their own 22 eventually breaking out with Morley showing good pace and busy feet before being tackled on the Navy 10 metre line, but rewarded with a penalty for not rolling away. After a successful kick to touch the lineout was won by Yvonne Mealy (4). Advantage was short lived with the Navy guilty of a high tackle. Directly from the kick and lineout the Navy defended deep in their 22 eventually running out of defenders allowing Portsmouth to score a try which was unconverted. RN 7 Portsmouth 5. Pompey quickly returned to the attack and scored a breakaway try from the halfway line which was converted bringing the second quarter to an end. RN 5 Portsmouth 12.
Halftime – RN 5 Portsmouth 12
The second half started as the second quarter finished with Portsmouth attacking strongly causing the Navy to concede a penalty for not releasing. Portsmouth, winning the subsequent lineout, moved the ball quickly scoring a well worked try in the corner which was unconverted. RN 7 Portsmouth 17.
Very quickly it became obvious that Portsmouth had taken the opportunity to ‘load’ their team with experienced players from the bench. As the Navy tired so Portsmouth were able to attack using forwards and backs to gain ground and pin the opposition in their own half for long periods, eventually scoring a further try again not converted. RN 7 Portsmouth 22.
The Navy continued to defend stoutly, tackling strongly with Morley to the fore and making Portsmouth work hard to gain any advantage. On the back foot it was always going to be hard to maintain discipline and after several penalties for offside Helen Stevenson (18) was invited to spend 10 minutes in contemplation on the wrong side of the touch line!! The Navy defended with resolution and courage against a tactically aware team playing open and expansive rugby. As the opposition tired and errors multiplied Pompey scored another try bringing the score to RN 7 – Portsmouth 27.
The game ended with a further try by Portsmouth with Portsmouth winning 32-7.
Final Score: Royal Navy 7 – Portsmouth 32
Head Coach Sarah Jenkins said after the game - I am very proud of the ladies’ performance this evening. We have very inexperienced players and managed to contest in the scums throughout and that’s a big improvement from previous games. We are growing each game and heading in the right direction.
Assistant Director of Rugby (Women), Lieutenant Commander Paula Bennett-Smith RN said - The development squad is now in its third season, this has allowed the RNRUW to grow its player database significantly. Giving ladies in the URNU, RNR and RN an opportunity to play rugby at grassroots level, and for the RNRUW coaches to talent spot prior to the Senior season starting. Over the last two seasons this has seen several new Caps being awarded to players who were pulled through from the development squad.
This was the second game for this season, and has also shown that there are already some great potential new players. In addition, the development squad also allows players from the Senior squad who have been injured or returning from operations and deployments to gain valuable game time by playing without the pressure of wearing the prestigious RN playing shirt for their first game.- many
Sport within the Armed Forces is a vital component in the continued training of servicemen and women preparing and carrying out operations around the world. In develops amongst other skills discipline, team work, courage, acceptance of responsibility and leadership.
Rugby is no exception and developing players is an integral part of the RNRU’s philosophy.
There were many positives to be taken from this game by both the players and coaches alike. With further fixtures and training sessions planned there is no reason why some of those players playing in the fixture should not be in the squad to play in the Inter Service Competition 2020. This season the Army v Navy Women’s game will make history by being played for the first time on the hallowed turf of Twickenham. Ladies the door is open - with commitment, perseverance and effort to improve over the next few months - it could be you.
RN Women (Development) Team: 1. El Bloxham (17), 2. Hannah Cole (2), 3. Gemma Walker (16), 4. Yvonne Mealy (Capt)(4), 5. Anya Bass (5), 6. Maria Laws (6), 7. Helen Stevenson (18), 8. Rosie Staples (13), 9. Drew Powell (9), 10. Loogle Worsfold (10), 11. Josie Parnaby (11), 12. Suz Badger (12), 13. Abi Sondack (8), 14. Steph Coles (14), 15. Tegan Morley (25), 16. Charlie Lacey (19).e
RN Women (Development) TSG: Asst DOR Paula Bennett-Smith, Team Manager Jane West, Head Coach Sarah Jenkins and Team Physio Mark Povey.
Words. P. Pongo
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © Keith Woodland