Successful Start to the Season for Royal Navy U23s




Hampshire U20

Navy Diver Matthew Bratton searches for a way through the Hampshire defence
Hampshire try to stop centre Brad Janes
Ben Kiempema faces up to Hampshire
Prop, Kai Allton takes the ball to Hampshire

Ben Watson led his team out onto the pitch at Havant to face a Hampshire U20 side that recently beat the Army U23s 24-15 in Aldershot. However despite having the home town advantage, Hampshire couldn't capitalise on it, and the Royal Navy team finished victorious in their opening match of the season, winning 24 - 7.

The conditions were favourable; the sun was shining and a small crowd of spectators were treated to 80 minutes of entertaining rugby. Initially the Navy team dominated, pegging Hampshire deep in their own half.  The home side were clearly feeling the pressure and conceded a penalty, from which Navy No 8, Scott Makepeace, was able to make a break, supported by Hayden Wilkinson, who was able to cross the line for the first try of the match. Fullback Tim Weale converted, giving the Royal Navy a lead of 7-0.

Quick to respond, Hampshire regrouped and kept possession through several phases but struggled to find the try line. After several minutes of fractured play, poor passing and fumbling, the ball was dropped over the line and 'no try' was given. The disappointment for Hampshire was made worse when from the subsequent line-out, enjoyable inter-play, swift hands and elusive running lines allowed Eastleigh speedster, Adam Gallagher, making his debut for the Navy, to cross for the second try of the match, which was again converted by Weale, giving the U23s a 14 point advantage.

The remainder of the first half saw the Navy tested in defence. Hampshire piled on wave after wave of pressure; despite conceding several penalties the Navy side managed to clear the ball from their own try line on repeated occasions. Eventually capitulating to the pressure, shortly before the end of the half, Flanker Dan Mason was awarded a yellow card and Hampshire immediately took advantage of being one player up. A strong drive over the line by Liam Kent-Jordan scored Hampshire's first points of the match. His try was converted and as the teams entered the tunnel at half time the Navy led Hampshire 14 - 7.

The Navy dominated the start of the second half, with two like for like tries coming in quick succession, the first scored by Liam Williams and the second by Scott Makepeace. Scott only joined the Navy this year, having previously played at Worcester, so it was unsurprising that he made his mark during this his first appearance in an Royal Navy shirt. Neither try was converted. The Navy had increased their lead to 24-7.

Thereafter Hampshire successfully defended repeated Navy incursions into their 22. A well-read intercept and several turnovers prevented the Navy team from putting more points on the board. Then the tide of play seemed to reverse, and it was the Navy's turn to defend with the Hampshire boys keen to score again before the end of the match. Both defences held strong though, and despite an exciting break from replacement Wing, Rory Penfold, there were no further tries.

The Navy team, watched by their coaching advisor, Kelly Brown, should be pleased with this, their first outing. Ben Watson and Gareth Rees were able to bring their experience of playing in the Inter Service Championship winning Senior XV team to this very new looking U23 side.  This is the first match of seven prior to the key matches against the RAF and the Army in the U23 Inter Service competition. The team management will be looking to further integrate the new players, improve their discipline and sharpen their technique.  Next up for the Royal Navy U23s is a home game against Havant RFC U20s at Burnaby Road on Wednesday 5 October KO 1930. Spectators are welcome.

Team: Ash Miller, Isaac Salt, Joe Burton, Ben Watson (Captain), Hayden Wilkinson, Dan Mason, Toby Papp, Scott Makepeace, Gareth Rees, Chris Mills, Adam Gallagher, Matthew Bratton, Brad Janes, Gerran Smith, Tim Weale, Rory Bonnick, Josh Skinner, Kai Allton, Sam Brierley, Campbell Cunningham, Craig Jones, Liam Williams, Rory Penfold, Thomas Wheeler, Ben Keimpema, Ciaran Daniel, Matthew Taylor.

Images Royal Navy Rugby Union /© John Walton