U23 XV v Gosport And Fareham RFC




Gosport and Fareham

Though the US Portsmouth ground missed the tornado that hit Hayling Island, the Royal Navy U23 XV and their opposition, Gosport and Fareham RFC, did have to survive monsoon conditions as the preparations for the Inter Service championship continued. Gosport and Fareham deservedly left with the spoils, following a 26-14 victory and for skipper, Matt Horton's and his team, there are a couple of harsh lessons to be learnt.

The game turned in the third quarter when poor defence, poor handling and some poor decision making generated a perfect storm in the Navy’s ranks, as they allowed Gosport And Fareham to steal the game. During this quarter the visitors monopolised possession through simple short passing, some good strong running and that most important of attributes in the conditions, patience. The three tries they scored were born of a collective desire and an ability to do the basics well, which the Navy failed to match.

Fortunately the purpose of warm up games is development and this team has already shown what it is capable of. Even when playing poorly they gave frequent glimpses of what their potential can be. In the first twenty minutes Tristan Trehan’s strong running from the base of the scrum and maul was heart-warming stuff. Twice he was held five metres short and but for white line fever from his over anxious team mates at least one of these chances should have been converted. In harmony with his backrow colleagues of John Barnett and Jack Tindle, they were producing good front foot ball time and time again. However this was too frequently frittered away by over elaborate back play and wayward passing. Both half backs, Shuttleworth and Jones are better than their first half showing.

It was not all gloom and doom, despite the weather. Josh Blackburn was strong at centre and frequently turned poor ball in to something useable, whilst Mo Andrews on the right wing looked lively. It was good to see John Barnett back at flanker following his deployment on COUGAR 13 and he will have benefitted from getting a game in to his legs. The team also managed to produce the champagne moment of the match. It was an occasion when the backs delivered on their rich potential. A solid scrum, Shuttleworth fed Jones who drifted slightly and with a deft pass found Sam Benzie. Sam cut a superb angle to cross under the posts untouched. Conversion by Josh Jones and Gosport and Fareham’s early try cancelled out, Navy lead 7-5. Simple, clinical, effective.

The woes of the third quarter were put behind them with some more rousing play to finish the game. Dylan Woods off the bench was industrious and well supported by Jack Basher who enjoyed some powerful runs. Also for two proud parents in the stand there was the opportunity to see both Penfold brothers in harness in the back three. Bob will always be remembered as part of the unbeaten Navy side of 1986-1987 – played 10, won 10 and no doubt both Rory and Michael will be hoping to one day win a Senior XV cap to go alongside dad’s collection. Before then though they will need to step ahead of Ben Clarke who is rapidly rediscovering his best form on the wing and is the only player in the squad to have tasted U23 Inter Service championship success [2010]. It was Ben who went over for the final score of the match, and the Navy’s second try. The scoring pass was given by Navy U23 debutant, Greg Loydall who did enough in his short time on the field at fly half to show he is a player of promise. And to remind Josh Jones that performance is everything.

The next time the U23’s are at Burnaby Road, their opponents will be the Army in the opening round of this season’s Inter Service championship. The potential is clearly there. The commitment is clearly there. For the coaching staff just a few more sessions to bring all jigsaw together. You need the wet the stone to polish a rapier sharp cutting edge, so perhaps Sunday’s weather will prove to be a blessing in disguise.

Images by Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones & © John Walton