U23 XV v Ealing
RN U23 XV
Barely a Dave Pascoe Punt from the famous Teddington Studios, the Royal Navy U23 team opened their 2013 Inter Service campaign on Sun 8 Sep with a solid performance. Despite a final score of 26-17, in favour of Ealing Trailfinders, there was enough evidence that after last season's 'straight to DVD' opening performance the class of 2013 have the potential to produce a blockbuster performance.
A depleted squad made the short journey up the A3. The perennial problem at this time of year of operational commitments and training demands was further exacerbated by a couple of players away with the COUGAR 13 Deployment. To augment the playing squad U23 mentors, and former Captains, Kye Beasley and Ian Cooper took their leadership role to the next level leading from the front. Quite literally as they both played Prop giving perfect support for newcomer, Dewi Pearce as Hooker.
The two 'old heads' influence had been significant over the weekend's training session at HMS Collingwood and it was perhaps fitting that it was Ian Cooper who opened the scoring for the RN with a well taken try, converted by Josh Jones.
The score was a fair reflection on the early play. With Trailfinders having opened the scoring with a penalty the Navy had responded immediately and were unfortunate when Ben Clarke crossed the goal line only for the play to be brought back for a forward pass. With this respite, Trailfinders looked to exert their own pressure but were met by some ferocious defence from the men in blue. Coopers try was deserved and soon followed up by a RN second through debutant Sam Benzie. His tackling had already place a marker down to those watching, seeking out future Royal Navy talent. His solo try merely confirmed their initial thoughts. With Jones unable to convert the RN had a 12 - 3 lead.
After the opening quarter the game settled and Ealing Trailfinders were able to play themselves back in to the match as the understandable lack of team play from the Royal Navy gave them opportunities. As the first half ended, and the second began, further Ealing penalties and a couple of tries eased them ahead on the scoreboard.
It was clear that as the match entered its final quarter a weekends training was beginning to take it's toll. It showed the strength of character within the side that this did not prevent them scoring a third try through a concerted forward mauling effort. With the kick again missed and a final Ealing score, the end result of 26-17 against the Royal Navy was probably a true reflection of a tough opening encounter.
Next up will be Chichester and the RN U23s will be looking to put last seasons below par performance finally to bed. There will be a few more players back but no Tom Walker. Guesting in the team, he is slightly to old for the U23s this year, but expect to see this exciting prospect in the second row after Christmas.
Of the others, Benzie naturally stood out and though not yet three months in to his Service career he already seems to have an understanding of the requirements and responsibilities of wearing the famous Royal Navy jersey. However he was not alone and the players and coaching staff should be excited as to the possibilities that this season may hold. Last season kicked off with a poor start matched by remarkable progress and an unbeaten season – with the heartache of losing the title on points difference. This year they have set the opening standard much higher but mustn't lose sight of the progress they made last season through the collective desire to work hard for each other both on and off the field.