Try of the Night Not Enough for Royal Navy Women
The British Police produced a strong performance to win against the Royal Navy Women at RNAS Yeovilton. The Navy side worked hard and were tenacious in defence. They produced the best try of the evening for Dixon to the delight of their supporters, including Commanding Officers from the player’s units.
With only one other match for the Royal Navy Women’s XV before the first capped match against the French, the British Police gave them a hard game to assist with their ongoing preparations. An entertaining first half saw the Police reach the break 22-5 in front after an early Billi Staite try had levelled the game 5-5. After the break the Police team stepped up their physicality and enjoyed the greater share of possession. The Navy defence was put under huge pressure for long periods and on the whole performed well. But they could not prevent their visitors stretching their lead through three more tries before Rose Dixon finished the match with a well worked try to make the final score 43-10 to the British Police Women. The match was attended by a number of the players’ Commanding Officers and they certainly saw, first hand, the values and qualities that rugby players, and sport people in general, develop which in turn helps to make them more effective Sailors.
When Billi Staite levelled the scores just after ten minutes the Royal Navy Women could rightly be pleased with their start to the match. Aggressive play was disrupting the Police side and the Navy team showed enterprise with ball in hand. There will be some disappointment though that during the following half hour they allowed their visitors to build a 15-5 lead through two further tries before on the stoke of half time they conceded a fourth try to trail 22-5. It was not a score line that reflected the play but as with the Senior XV against Cambridge University, last week, the Women’s XV will know that they had the opportunity to score perhaps two more tries themselves and these chances have to be taken.
Whether it was confidence from the early try, or not, wing Billi Staite produced one of her best halves of rugby in the Navy shirt. It is not often that the Navy wingers get chance to shine but some of this was through the graft of the Navy pack who, with Ann-Marie McIntyre always in the heart of the action, also produced a fine forty minutes of rugby to give Olivia Critchley at half back time to release the backline.
After the break the British Police tightened up some of the play and began to monopolise possession. It proved to be a half of rugby that severely tested the defensive structures of the home team and whilst, on the whole, the team should be pleased with the aggressive line speed, they produced, along with their first up tackles; they probably will feel that at least one of the British Police tries could have been prevented. This is what happens when a team has to absorb pressure for long periods and perversely this half of rugby will stand the Women’s XV in good stead for the three capped games to come. Megan Musgrave had replaced Sam Smale and she led the performance in the second half with a prestigious work rate but there should also be an honourable mention to the whole backline, who put in a big shift in the wider channels, as for much of the half the Navy’s defence held firm.
The match did though finish with the Royal Navy Women producing some of the best rugby of what was a thoroughly entertaining evening to produce the best score of the night. Rose Dixon, another in the Navy shirt to enjoy a fine evening, finished it off from deep and the score gives a glimpse of the possibilities for later this season. As with her earlier conversion, Suz Badger, was off target for the extra points. So, with the satisfaction of the final play of the evening, the whistle bought the game to a close, with the British Police securing a deserved win, 43-10.
Preparation now turns to the match against Devon next month and the opportunity to make further progress before the trip to France on the 18th march. The coaching staff have some good building blocks with which to work after this performance but will be wanting an improvement in some key areas as they meet the challenge of the French. One of the learning points being that when there is a chance of a score, or even a half chance, then these need to be taken more often to help keep the scoreboard moving.
An important part of the preparation will be provided through the ongoing support of the Fleet and Shore Establishments and the Navy players hosted a number of Commanding Officers at this match to say a thank you for the support given. On the side lines, Royal Navy Rugby Union Chairman, Capt Andy Kellett RN, hosted representatives from seven Units, including Cdr Brody (Head of Nursing) and Col Flitchett (representing MSHQ) who would have enjoyed watching Billie’s try. Also, a mention to Mark Sheldon (MCTA) who supports Sarah Jenkins with her rugby. Sheldon, a former Navy flanker / Number 8 who was part of some bruising Navy backrows in the past will have particularly enjoyed the performance from McIntyre and Musgrove. Finally, a special mention to ComDevFlot, Cdre Bellfield, and Cdr Preece (COS PJHQ) who both release members of the TSG. In some ways it is easier to support the players, but it is often the TSG that require as much support with all the work they have to achieve in terms of squad preparation and the associated planning requirements. It was great to see them on the touchline along with Yeovilton’s CO, Cdre Tindall, and Cdr Witt (CO Joint Hospital Group).
Next match for the Royal Navy Women is Sunday 8 March 2020 v Devon at Topsham RFC. KO: 14:30
Next match for the Royal Navy Rugby Union is next week when the President’s XV are away to Western-Super-Mare, Wednesday 26 February, KO: 19:15
By line: Geraint Ashton Jones
Images credit: © Alligin Photography