U23 XV v Cambridge University U23




Cambridge University U23

This weekend the Royal Navy U23s travelled to Cambridge for the last stage in their preparation for the 2013 Interservices championship. With a number of warm up games versus Ealing, Chichester, Portsmouth University, and Gosport and Fareham already under their belt, this match presented the coaching team of Major Scott Ashley (FLEET HQ) and WO1 Billy May (HMS NELSON) with a final opportunity to look at their young charges and select their final IS squad, a not insignificant challenge when faced with the numbers and quality of players available this season.

With a real autumnal feel to the day at the Grange Road home of Cambridge University, both sides took to the park full of energy and up for the game. With the Navy U23s kicking off, the first early frenetic minutes of the match went the way of the students with their early pressure soon being rewarded with a try, which remained unconverted leaving the score 5-0. Cambridge continued to keep up the pressure on their Navy counterparts for the next 15 minutes, and although the senior service had a battle on their hands, they soon fought back with a try by ET (ME) Benzie ( HMS SULTAN) who touched down in the left hand corner. With the try remaining unconverted, and with the Navy now increasingly in the ascendency, another try was soon added to the scoresheet. Following a line out on the students 10m line, another blistering run down the left wing by Benzie brought a try, converted by Navy fly half AET Loydall (HMS SULTAN). Through aggressive driving by the forwards, the Navy continued to attack their Cambridge counterparts, and with both forwards and backs taking the game to their opposite numbers a strong Navy attack soon resulted in a further try, taking the half time score to 5-17.

Following the restart, it was clear that Cambridge had returned to the fray with fire in their bellies and following a scrum in their own half broke free to score under the Navy posts, the try subsequently converted and taking the score to 12-17. The students continued to put the Navy under pressure, and were soon rewarded with a penalty on the 10 m line following an infringement at the ruck. With the score now 15-17, the RN subsequently missed an opportunity to stretch out their lead with an off target penalty kick. The Navy exhibited some good passages of play, especially through a strong back line but despite this Cambridge soon drove over in the corner from a lineout, now taking the lead 20-17. Determined defence from the Navy saw the students held up on the dark blue line but Cambridge eventually found a way across and touched down for an unconverted try 25-17. With no quarter given at this stage in the match by either side, a player from each side was soon sent to the sin bin. Cambridge were soon awarded a penalty, and poor Navy defence let Cambridge in for a soft try, subsequently converted, which proved to be the last points of the game leaving the final score at 32-17.

Although the start and finish of the match belonged to Cambridge, the Navy held the upper hand for a significant part of the match and demonstrated good interplay between backs and forwards, determined defence and an ability to repeatedly get across the gain line.

The squad now firmly turn their attention to the Interservices championship, which commences on Friday the 15th of November against the Army U23s at Burnaby Road - the home of Navy Rugby. Kick off is at 1900hrs, and all are welcome to support the latest generation of young players to pull on the coveted Navy shirt. For those unable to attend the match, you can follow the progress of the U23s on twitter @RNRugby.