U23 XV Produce Their Best Performance As They Build to 2015 Inter Services
Ealing Trailfinders Academy
The pristine pitch at Old Merchant Taylors school has a long association with Navy Rugby’s age group sides, regularly hosting the Colts ‘home’ Inter Service matches played, in those days, on the morning of the Army Navy Match. It certainly seemed to galvanise this year’s U23 XV who produced their best performance of their season to beat Ealing Traifinders 36-15.
Despite the late withdrawal, through illness, of Harrison Marsh, the U23 XV travelled in a positive frame of mind having had a good couple of days preparation. The aim was to produce a performance to springboard them forward. That they did this with a well deserved win was a bonus. The Navy side will reflect on a hard fought team performance where their collective work ethic for each other in defence and patience in attack wore down Ealing Trailfinders before they pulled away in the final ten minutes.
It was the Navy who opened the scoring after an opening ten minutes where neither side could penetrate each other’s defence. The Navy, having defended well and with good shape, finally produced some ball and with man of the match Gareth Rees controlling matters from half back probed the Ealing Trailfinders defence, first through the centre and then wider out where they freed up Rory Penfold for the first try. He should have quickly scored a second, following a searing break from Rhys Dimmock-Williams, but Penfold was bundled in to Touch-in-Goal and the Navy had to satisfy themselves with three points from a well taken Rees penalty who had early pushed his conversion attempt wide.
Being 8-0 up after a quarter of the match the U23XV would like to have kicked on but to Ealing’s credit they upped their game and put the Navy defence under some serious pressure. Eventually they were able to create an opening for their inside centre to cross wide out to reduce the deficit to 8-5 before they took the lead just before half time, 10-8, with a second try through their powerful openside flanker.
Half time gave the Navy time to regroup and revert to their game plan, which served them so well in the opening 25 minutes. With a tightened up defence they were able to pressure Ealing Trailfinders into errors and force turnovers as the home team’s attacks fizzled out. Despite playing for part of the third quarter with fourteen men, Joe Burton being sin binned for side entry at the maul, they were able to score a third try through Rory Penfold having already started the half with a well taken try by Mark Dowds. With Gareth Rees converting both the Navy had turned the match around and eased out to a 22-10 lead.
To Ealing Trailfinders credit they once more looked to wrestle control of the match from the Navy team. A period of sustained attacking play forced the Navy to defend for their lives and on the whole their structure survived intact. However as Ealing looked to be almost blowing themselves out they eventually forced their way over the Navy line for a third try. 15-22 and the game was within a single score.
Often having had a hard couple of days training the Navy U23s would fade at this late stage in their warm up games. However rather than try and hang on and protect their narrow lead they upped their intensity and Gareth Rees added tempo to their play. In the last five minutes they were rewarded with tries from Rob MacGregor and Craig James, both converted by Rees. A second Yellow Card, for a high tackle from Rhys Dimmock-Williamstook a little gloss of the dominance of the final period, but not much, as in many ways it typified the full on commitment that had been display all afternoon. On another day the cards may have been more costly but that is something the coaches can address over the next coupe of weeks. For now skipper Ben Roberts can be satisfied that his team produced a very well deserved and hard earned 36-15 victory
Royal Navy U23 XV:
Sam Norton, Isaac Salt, Mark Dowds, Alex Cragg, an Mason, Sam Stewart, Gavin Elsam, Ben Roberts (C), Gareth Rees, Nick Burgess, Rory Penfold, Dan Holbrook, George Gissing, Harry Bates, Rhys Dimmock-Williams
Tom Bond, Joe Burton, Joe Gatenby, Sam Stewart, Nathan Trower, Greg Loydall, Apenisa Daunibau, Rob MacGregor, Craig Jones, James Griggs
Next U23 XV Match
28th October - RN U23's v Oxford University. US Portsmouth RFC, KO 19.30
Inter Service Championship Matches
RAF U23 XV v Royal Navy U23XV @ RAF Halton, Wed 11 Nov KO 13:30
Royal Navy U23 XV v Army U23 XV @ US Portsmouth RFC, Wed 18 Nov KO 19:00
Images by Alligin Photography / © John Walton