Twickenham Distraction Weighs Heavy on Navy’s Final Run Out


RN Senior XV


Chichester RFC

Matt Tichias powerful running was a handful for the Chichester defence and deserved his well taken try
Dave Fairbrother was the pick of the forwards, regularly running the ball from deep and the base of the scrum
Jon Humphrey has the easiest of run in for the Royal Navy’s second try
With the forwards once more held short, Dave Pascoe switches the attack
The Navy pack had to reorganise early on with the loss of Tom Cowley. Edd Pascoe (right) moved in to the second row
Early strong running from the Royal Navy split the Chichester defence but too often unforced errors allowed Chichester the opportunity to counter attack
The defence is scattered as Nathan Huntley rounds the last man for the opening Royal Navy try

The final Royal Navy run out before the Army Navy match has always been a much anticipated game that more often than not has fallen well short in terms of spectacle.  2015 was no different as a spirited Chichester side were sharp on the counter attack but ultimately lacked the fire power to damage the Navy’s defence.  With a high number of rolling substitutions punctuating a drawn out second half, the game fizzled out to a 22-13 victory that was far removed from the opening quarter’s inventive intensity.  The Royal Navy can now fully focus on their annual test against the Army but have an anxious wait to see whether Tom Cowley, who was injured early will be fit for the Twickenham.

From the outset Chichester showed an attacking intent that boded well for the game.  The Navy started brightly but too often an unforced error caused the turnover upon which Chichester thrived.  Spurning the opportunity to use the wind and kick, they were happy to play from deep.  This allowed them to challenge the Navy’s defence and with good continuity they regularly worked their way up field.  However, though they challenged, the Navy’s defence was easily able to maintain its structure, if not its discipline, to keep the lively Chichester side at arms reach.  The well taken drop goal opened the scoring was a testament to the Chichester fly half’s awareness that the Navy’s defence was looking sound.  That their remaining points game from a penalty and a try scored when the Royal Navy were short handed due to the sin binning of first Seta Raumakita and then Kyle Mason, highlighted the ill discipline that detracted from an otherwise impressive defensive display.

When he Royal Navy were able to show some composure their attack and continuity looked sharp.  The opening try was well taken as after a number of forward surges Johnny Stephen switched the focus to the backs and Nathan Huntley created the space to surge to the line for the Navy’s first try, which John Humphrey converted from under the posts.  0-3 had become 7-3 and this should have been the launch pad for more points.

However some staunch Chichester defence and the number of penalties prevented further points from a Navy team who understandably were kicking to the corner rather than take penalties at goal.  Dave Fairbrother thought he had scored but this was ruled out being held up.  This only added to frustrations within the Navy team that occasionally boiled over as they failed to subdue the Chichester side.  With two dangerous tackles warranting yellow cards to Raumakita and Mason it was to prove costly and allowed Chichester to first close to within a point and then take the lead through a short range try as they drove over after a 5m lineout. 

With the end of the first half approaching the Royal Navy were trailing 13-7 but exerting the first sustained pressure of the night.  Repeated infringements from Chichester saw them reduced to 14 and Jon Humphrey kick a penalty to bring the deficit to 3 points.  With little time remaining excellent inter play between the Royal Navy forward runners shredded the first up Chichester defence as the home side quickly moved up field.  Huntley and Buinimasi continued the move before play switched back across the Chichester posts for Matt Tichias to feed Humphrey who scored in the left corner.  Though unable to convert his own try the Navy were back in front, 15-13 as the referee blew for half time.

For the first ten minutes of the second half the Navy were clearly in the ascendancy and again exerted sustained pressure on the Chichester goal line.  A couple of needless penalties allowed Chichester to clear their lines but shrewd kicking from Humphrey and Huntley kept pegging them back towards the goal line.  It wasn’t long before the pressure was converted to points.  Ben Priddey, Josh Terry and Dave Fairbrother all went close before Dave Pascoe switched the point of attack to the backline where Matt Tichias cut an exquisite angle to power over close to the posts.  Tom Davies landed the conversion to extend the lead to 22-13.

That Tichias’s score was the last of the game was probably as much due to the looming shadow of Twickenham as anything else.  Both side made a number of replacements resulting in the game losing its shape and its early bite.  Occasionally both sides spluttered back to life but the Navy seemed content to allow Chichester the ball as their defence, with 15 men, looked at ease all evening.  Eventually the referee blew for full time which allowed the good sized crowd to retire to the bar and recover from a match played in a surprisingly chill north easterly wind. 

Chichester provided a robust work out for the Royal Navy team.  However they can now focus fully on the Army Navy game where they know the Inter Service championship remains within their own hands.  The recent victory by the RAF over the Army by 33-29 means that a dark blue victory at Twickenham by 5 points or more will see the Royal Navy first Inter Service Championship win since 2010.  However, anything less and there are several permutations that come into play.

The loss of Tom Cowley will be a worry but they have ten days to iron out the last wrinkles before meeting the Army’s challenge.  An eighty minute performance at the intensity they have shown, at times, in their games against Worcester, the South West and the RAF will ensure that the sound of Rule Britannia will reverberate around the 80,000 sell out Twickenham crowd.  Nothing less will do.

Royal Navy: Mason *, Collins *, Terry *, Cowley *, Harvey *, E Pascoe * Priddey (Capt) *, Fairbrother *, Stephen *, Huntley *, Welling *, Tichias *, Buinimasi *, Marlin *, Humphrey *

Rollings Reps:, Beasley *, Blackburn *, Raumakita *, S Davies *, T Davies *, D Bamford *, R Cadywould,, J Hayler, C Thompson *

Article by Geraint Ashton Jones
Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones