South West Invitational XV v Royal Navy Senior XV
RN Senior XV
South West Select XV
The Royal Navy Senior XV travelled to Taunton for a fixture against a group of talented and clearly motivated young players who are undoubtedly on the rise. On a beautiful, warm spring evening, Taunton RFC became the home for a South West select side, known as the Dirty Dog Invitational XV, with players selected from across the south west, including the Cornish Pirates, the Exeter Chiefs, Tiverton, North Petherton, Exeter University and some of Taunton's own Titans. With the game played on a hard ground in perfect conditions for running rugby, from the kick off both teams set off with one aim - to play hard running "Barbarian" style rugby with minimum kicking from hand and tee. As a result, the large, enthusiastic crowd witnessed a fast and entertaining game of rugby.
Last year's fixture at Taunton RFC saw the Invitation XV beat the Navy 38-17. This year the Navy was ready for the Dirty Dog Invitational XV pace and power and had the best of the possession and territory throughout the game. With both teams intent of running with the ball in hand and not kicking for territory, periods of intense pressure from both sides were broken by blistering breaks. Much of the half was a gritty arm wrestle between the 10m lines and after one such tussle the Navy pack executed a perfect catch and drive from a penalty, with Captain Ben Priddey going over to take the lead, 0 - 5. Within 5 minutes the Dirty Dog Invitational XV had drawn level with a try of their own and with the conversion taken, they took the lead. 7 - 5. With the hard ground causing a few injuries and stoppages, the Royal Navy continued to apply pressure against a strong defence, which finally cracked just before half time. Following a fast attack with good handling, Johnny Stephen took the Senior XV back into the lead. 7 - 10. This is how the half finished and both teams left the field to enthusiastic applause.
The second half was much of the same. Closely contested, fast running rugby with ball in hand, some of the clashes at the tackle brought gasps from the crowd. On the hard ground the injuries on both sides began to take a toll, which when combined with the planned replacement meant the game became a little fragmented for a while. Nevertheless, the Royal Navy kept a clean sheet in the second half, with some fine defence. They also made the most of their attacking opportunities, with good handling and interplay between backs and forwards that led to Nathan Huntley and Jon Marlin scoring impressive tries. Final score 7 - 22.
This was a good run out for the squad and the "Barbarian" style of fast running rugby was an excellent tester for what is to come on the 9 May. The final Senor XV fixture before the Army match at Twickenham is on Wednesday 29 April against Chichester RFC. Kickoff is at 19:30 on the 3G pitch, HMS Temeraire.
Report by Mark Walker
Images Alligin Photography / © Mark Andrews