Sunny start to the season
Thirty-two Royal Navy Rugby Union Under 23 players took part in their first game of the season when they headed along to Dolphin Crescent to take on a Hampshire Under 20 side at Gosport and Fareham Rugby Club.
It was a warm, sunny afternoon, and the pitch at Gosport and Fareham Rugby Club was particularly dry and dusty. A decent crowd was gathered in the sunshine as the young players took to the pitch and RNRURS referee Tim Bailey took charge.
RNRU U23 head coach, John Court, was joined by his coaching team of Andy Vance (Backs), Loz Salisbury (Fwds), Pony Moore and Team Manager Rob Jones. Following the trials weekend in July, they made the decision to give all the players the opportunity to showcase their talent, hence a format of 4 quarters was agreed upon with the Hampshire coaches, so that the Royal Navy Rugby Union could test out all the hopefuls without disrupting the flow of the game.
During the first quarter the majority of play remained in the middle of the pitch, with first one side and then the other gaining possession. As both sides settled down neither could make a break and find a way through the opposition. However it was the Hampshire side that gelled quickest. After a period of sustained possession they pushed deep into the Navy territory. A poor line out was followed by a scrum and the Hampshire team shipped the ball out wide and scored the first points on the far right. It was always going to be a tough conversion, and it narrowly missed. Score 5 - 0 to the home side.
The Royal Navy side immediately responded, this time maintaining possession and looking promising inside the Hampshire 22. However some handling errors allowed Hampshire to turn the tables. The fly half deftly intercepted the ball, running the full length of the pitch to score the second try, extending Hampshire's lead 10 - 0, as the first quarter ended.
Determined to get back into the game, the Navy side began to come together. Several pick and go's saw them move up the pitch, and a break from the fly half made it through the Hampshire defence. Passing the ball left, the scrum half, Tyrell, went over the try line putting the first points on the board for the Royal Navy, 10 - 5.
Another Navy attack soon followed, but this time the Hampshire defence were ready, and the ball was cleared out of the danger zone. The relief didn't last long though, and the fly half, Peterson, found some space down the left wing and added a further 5 points to the Navy score. Unfortunately, he was unable to convert his own try, hitting the post, the score was level 10 - 10.
From the restart, Hampshire managed to catch the Navy unawares. Breaking out from a strong centre ruck, Hampshire crossed the line for their third try, 15 - 10.
With a few minutes left on the clock before half time, the Navy prop, Tam Lindsay, found himself intercepting another Hampshire attack. He managed to kick the ball up the pitch, making a good chase. But unsurprisingly, Hampshire managed to catch up with him and he was brought down just inside the Hampshire 22.
With a complete change of the Navy team during the break, it took them a while to settle down at the start of the third quarter. Hampshire were able to take advantage, capably working through their moves, to score once again, score 20 - 10. The Navy soon responded, with a try of their own scored by No 22. So far, none of the tries had been converted, score 20 -15. But that was going to change. Going with the flow of the game, Hampshire were the next to score, and this time the kick was on target. Score 27 - 15.
True to earlier form, the Royal Navy side looked for their opportunity to close the gap on Hampshire, and it wasn't long before the Navy found themselves in a dominating position, attacking on the far right. Hampshire repelled several attacks, but eventually the sustained pressure from the Navy paid off, and flanker, Kinsey, carried the ball over the line for another five points, score 27 - 20, at the end of the third quarter.
The final quarter was much the same, with the flow of the match going first one way and then the other. Early Navy possession was thwarted by Hampshire who re-gained possession following a scrum. Working their way back down the pitch, they exploited a gap in the Navy defence and scored their 6th try of the afternoon, score 32 - 20. It looked as if that was going to be the end of the action for the afternoon, but the Navy side were determined to have the last play. And they did – with scrum half, Cummings crossing the line and narrowing the gap to a final score of 32 - 25.
The match was full of action, with the spectators treated to 9 tries and plenty of energy from the players. The Royal Navy Rugby Union coaching team will be very satisfied with the enthusiasm and activity of their new players, keen to get to the next training session to help them develop their game play enroute to the Inter Service competition in November. It is still very early in the season for the Hampshire U20s but they should be very happy with their performance and be looking forward to the rest of the season.
Next up the RNRU face Dorset and Wiltshire U20s on Sunday 15th September at Burnaby Road. Kick off is at 1400 and entrance is free for spectators. This time they will be welcoming back a number of players who were part of the squad last year, integrating them with the new talent so come along to cheer them on.
RNRU Team List
1st half Lindsay, Bick, Cleverly, Aziz, Scott (team captain), Newcombe, Raby, Powell, Tyrell, Peterson, Stanley, Lowe, Wells, John, Hall
2nd half Holbrook, Scoot, Russel, Cunningham-Wood, Rhodes, Kinsey, McGarth, Collins, Manson, Cumming, Pack, Ridehalgh, Kretzschmar, Gladwin (team captain), Thomas
Words: Keith Woodland
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © Keith Woodland