Strong second half performance by Plymouth secures the win
Royal Navy Women XV
Having won their opening two fixtures against Portsmouth and Dorchester respectively the Royal Navy Women’s team lined up to face Plymouth Albion Ladies in their third preparation game for the Inter Service competition in April. The cold and miserable conditions in the South of Devon made for a difficult night for both teams, coupled with the continuous drizzle, it impacted the flow of the game. However both teams laid it all on the line to compete in what was an entertaining game of women’s rugby.
The first half was swinging like a pendulum, with the first 20 minutes belonging to Albion as they camped themselves deeply in the Navy 22. They attacked the Royal Navy defence time after time but could not make a breakthrough. The Navy defence were well organised and they dominated in pack, their scrummaging was persistent and dominant from the off. Ollie Critchley playing at scrum half terrorised her opposite number from the very first minute and didn’t give her an inch to breath, a performance that would lead to her winning the ‘Player of the Game’ award, by far the stand out player of the night and very much deserved. Albion persevered with their relentless attacking and came up against a wall of blue time after time. Izzy Rawlinson, Critchley’s half back partner was doing her utmost to match her work rate and made a smart break off the back of the dominant Navy scrum throwing a dummy and charging forward, but Albion’s defence were as stubborn as their attack and she was thwarted shortly after charging through the gain line. The home side were forced to make a change after 20 minutes; Feisha Greene replaced Sarah Jenkins in midfield and shortly after her arrival Greene crashed over to put the first and only score of the half on the scoreboard.
The momentum had swung the way of the girls in blue after 30 minutes of ruthless defending and they continued to dominate in the scrum. With their pressure and their eagerness to score they wasted some good opportunities and at times their decision making in the Albion 22 cost them the possibility of adding to their tally. Greene’s try came after the Navy forwards battered their counterparts in the scrum yet again, the ball was worked wide and it looked like they were going to touchdown in the far corner but Albion regrouped and stopped them short. However the Royal Navy recycled quickly and found Greene in midfield who powered forward and crashed over for the score. They missed the conversion and took a slender 5 - 0 lead.
Albion piled the pressure on straight from the restart looking to nullify the deficit. In what was thought to be the last kick of the half the Royal Navy kicked to touch hoping to bring the half to a close but a breakdown in communication meant they had inadvertently gifted Albion a lineout inside their own 22. From the resulting lineout, the Navy defended another wave of Albion pressure before winning a penalty and finally this time kicking to touch to bring the first 40 minutes to a close.
Half time Score: Royal Navy Women 5 – Albion Ladies 0
The half time break was a welcome one for the Albion girls and they came out for the second half rejuvenated and determined. In the first 10 minutes they caught the Royal Navy women napping and ran in 2 tries, converting 1, and took a 5 – 12 lead in almost the blink of an eye.
Despite Albion’s early scores the Navy continued to press on and their forwards remained assertive and bullied the scrums. Critchley continued to fight for scraps and her work rate was exemplary; she thwarted every Albion scrum with lightening pace and unyielding tackling.
Despite the Navy attempt at a fight back the Albion ladies had found their feet in the fixture and began to counter attack with pace , they thought they had run over for their third try of the night but some last ditch defending spoiled their premature celebrations when they were help up over the line.
Notwithstanding this disappointment, the Albion ladies managed to cross the line for the third time with 10 minutes of the half remaining. They worked the ball wide with numbers over and were able to break the white wash to increase the gap to 5 – 17 after the conversion was missed.
With the game all but over Albion scored their fourth try of the night to solidify the result, with the Navy girls tiring and the Albion back line freshened up through replacements they broke hard and worked the ball quickly through hands to their winger who had a clear run in to touch down, the conversion was missed and the score increased to 5 – 22, and that’s how the score stayed until the referee bought the proceedings to a close, with the Royal Navy Women experiencing their first defeat of their season.
A humbling defeat by the Albion Ladies, yet there were a lot of positives for the Royal Navy Women to take away. The Critchley and Rawlinson pairing at 9 and 10 was great, they were positive both in attack and defence, the inclusion of a kicking option would further develop their game and offer them an alternative both attacking and defending. The forwards were persistent and strong in the scrum and they defended aggressively from the offset. The weather played a part in the pace of the game however they made the best of a miserable night and despite the result the team were all smiles at the end after local businessman Phil Abbott of Ivor Dewdney Pasties provided both teams with good old fashioned traditional cornish pasties.
The Royal Navy Women will regroup and analyse this game while looking forward to their next game against Swansea University Ladies on Wednesday 8 March at St Helens Rugby and Cricket ground, KO 1900.
Team List: P. Hutchinson, A. Risker-Woods, K. Parkman, H. Stevenson, A. Gilbertson, A. McIntyre, C. Fredrickson (c), S. Hargrave, O. Critchley, I. Rawlinson, M. Collyer, S. Jenkins, N. Elvidge, L. Blagden, D. Powell Replacements: E. Park, A. Walker, R. Dilmore, K. Marlor, F. Greene, A. Byrne, B. Staite, K. Ives.
Words by Sam Sims
Images Royal Navy Rugby Union © Mark Andrews