The Inverdale Challenge Dutch Style!
RN East v RN North
2016 will go down in Royal Navy Rugby Union history as a special year. For the first time in the history of the Inverdale Challenge community rugby competition one of the matches was played overseas. Teams from RN North and RN East travelled from Helensburgh and Portsmouth to the Dutch town of Leeuwarden, at the request of the Rugby Make a Difference Foundation based in Holland. The reason for the request was to mark the centenary of a very special occasion when the first international game of rugby was played in the Netherlands. The players in the match in 1916 were sailors from the Royal Naval Division who found themselves interned in a camp in Groningen, Holland after they were cut off following the siege of Antwerp during the First World War. The sailors represented England and Scotland and the Dutch people were so taken with the spectacle that following this demonstration game the first Dutch Rugby Clubs were established in the student strongholds of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Delft and The Hague.
The match itself was hosted by the local Greate Pier Rugby Club and despite the overcast weather a large crowd had gathered to support the commemorative event. RNRU Director of Community Rugby, Lt Cdr Chris Roberts from RNAS Culdrose, proudly showcased the talent of the Northern and Eastern teams to RNRU Director of Rugby, Captain Roger Readwin. By encouraging participation in rugby at the ship and unit level, a larger pool of players is available for selection to the regional teams. From these regional teams the most able players are called up to play for the Navy's representative teams.
The teams were competing for the 'Commodore Wilfred Henderson' trophy - named after the Commander of the Royal Naval Division, who made the courageous decision to lead his men into the Netherlands and took a keen interest in their health and well-being for the duration of their internment. He was particularly concerned with keeping them fit and motivated during their enforced stay and found that participation in rugby was an excellent way to occupy them, and it also allowed the sailors to interact with the local Dutch community.
In the first half the teams were fairly evenly matched. RN North had the greater share of the possession and Full Back, Acreman, scored the first try. Outside Centre, Slader, stepped up for the conversion, which narrowly missed. From the re-start they kept the pressure on and forced the Eastern team to concede a penalty in their own half when the maul collapsed. RN North decided to go for the posts and this time the kick went over, successfully adding a further 3 points to extend their lead to 0-8. Determined not be outdone, RN East started to find their form, working through the phases. The team from Scotland were clearly rattled. From a line out on the 22 yard line, the Eastern team won possession and, after an impressive catch and drive, were rewarded with a try of their own. The conversion narrowly missed, the score stood at RN East 5 - RN North 8 as the clock approached half time.
After the break, both teams were attempting to take control of the game. First one side had possession, then the other team won the ball. It seemed as if neither side could find the space to play running rugby, that was until a clever intercept by the speedy North Winger, Roberts, who then flew down the left wing, leaving the opposition behind, touching down to make the score 5-15. The RN East team knew that if they stood a chance of getting back in the game they had to make a score of their own. They rallied, keeping possession in the opposition half. However they struggled to get over the 22. But then the Northern team conceded a penalty and RN East added 3 points to their total (RN East 8 - RN North 15). From the re-start RN East got possession, looking strong bearing down on RN North. However the referee had to penalise the Scottish side, showing a yellow card after some ill-discipline, with hands in the ruck. With the advantage of an extra player it seemed certain that the Eastern side would capitalise on the opportunity and level the score, but despite several chances, they were unable to find the space; the RN North team working hard in defence held firm.
Restored to 15 men, the RN North tuned the tide of possession and Acerman managed to break free of the opposition, turning on the speed to score his second try between the posts. Slader kicked again, stretching the lead to RN East 8 - RN North 22. With about 5 minutes left to play, it looked as if the Northern side might thrill the crowd with another score, but it was not to be. The RN North team were victorious, winning the Commodore Wilfred Henderson trophy.
The celebrations continued after the match in the clubhouse with the players from the UK integrating with their Dutch colleagues and meeting the members of the Leeuwarden rugby club, in particular, inspiring the younger members of the club. This event can be seen as a continuation of the Rugby World Cup Legacy programme - 'Unity' where the focus was on encouraging the development of rugby in countries that had a burgeoning organisation to help them increase participation in the great sport of rugby.
Team List RN North Perry, Storey, Taylor, Lasley, Heffernan, Woods, Macken, McNicholl, Benzie, Coy (Captain), Wood, Kava, Slader, Roberts, Acreman, Dowds, Henderson, Bathgate, Penman, Kenrick, Jones, Thompson, Greig. Team Manager Mardell, Coach Thomas
Team List RN East Green, Sprotson (Captain), Frogley, Chapman, Kirwan, Norton, Phillips, McLauclhan, Wood, Tyrrell, Brettell, Fentum, Trehan, Jeffery, Grant, Kewn, Cox, Trevor-Harris, Bodel, Lynch Team Manager Moore, Coaches Davis and White
Words by RNRU DoC
Images © Crown Copyright 2016 LPhot Jenkins and POPhot Wade