Royal Navy U23s Finish In Style





An error strewn first half, not helped by a chill wind and squally showers was easily forgotten by a good second half of rugby from both teams. In this period the Royal Navy U23s scored three tries to one to deservedly win their final match of the season 29 – 15 at RAF Halton. Just before the National Anthem, a heavy downpour swept across RAF Halton leaving a greasy surface for the teams to contend with. The RAF U23s, playing with the wind, needed to captilise on this early advantage but it was the Navy that started more brightly. With John Barnett, looking sharp in the loose, the Navy pack carried the ball and the game to the RAF and were soon exerting pressure. An early penalty miss from Josh Jones was quickly forgotten as Jack Brasher led the charge for the line. Held up centimetres short it seemed only a matter of time before the Navy would score. In the end, it was through Jones’s boot as a penalty for a high tackle which converted.

From the restart the Navy looked to run from deep. Having made some hard yards they put themselves under pressure with poor handling. Turnover possession gave the RAF an opportunity for points and eventually they tied the game through a penalty kick, given for side entry at the ruck. This setback seemed to re-galvanise the Navy team and they were once more playing on the front foot. Loydal and Davies seemed to be settling in to their new partnership at centre and both Myers and Clark had a few sniping runs out wide. However, it was the pack that deserved the accolades as time and again they drove the RAF back at scrum and ruck, giving Jordan Shuttleworth an armchair ride at scrum half.

A number of tries could have been scored at this time but either the pass was dropped or put behind the player, so momentum was lost. Eventually the teams’ timing clicked and from a quick ball a couple of simple passes allowed Jack Basher to cross in the corner for the game’s first try. However, rather than kicking on, the Navy again relaxed and allowed the RAF a try on the stroke of half time. 8-8 at the break but the Navy had the wind in the second half.

With the exception of two lapses of concentration, one of which cost them a try, and the other that should have, the Navy dominated the second half. Again the platform was set up by the pack and the front row scrimmaging of first, Davies and Potter, and then Hughes and Graham, when they came on, never allowed the RAF to capitalise on the few handling mistakes that were still made.

The RAF were also finding Shuttleworth a real handful and half back and Loydal proved a good game manager having moved in to fly half from centre. At last we saw some of Captain Matt Horton’s running skills and Myers once more showed his true potential. It was Myers who scored the Navy’s second try. Having been put away by Shuttleworth he slid in to the right corner through the pile of autumnal leaves. 13-8 soon became 20 – 8 as the Navy pack exerted its dominance.

With a number of fresh legs taking to the field the forwards loose play regained its momentum as Jack Tindle and Dylan Woods galvanised the forwards, and on more than one occasion, made large inroads in to the RAF defence with strong running. Chris MacDonald, industrious, at number eight, went close from a well worked driving maul before Dylan Wood crossed for the Navy’s third try, again from a driving maul. An easy conversion by Horton followed.

The Navy then had another period where they lost their concentration and conceded a well worked try to the RAF, which was converted to bring the game back to a single score, 20-15. With less than ten minutes remaining the RAF felt they had the momentum and looked up for a fight to the finish. However their expectations were dashed when from more good ball, Loydal held his pass long enough for Sam Davies to pick a good line and go under the posts for the fourth and final try of the match. A simple conversion by Horton made the final score 27-15 and a positive finish to the Royal Navy U23’s season.

Images by Alligin Photography / © G Ashton Jones