Better a Bad Day on the Beach, than a Good Day in the Office
Given the temperature, the ice-creams, the calm seas and the abundance of British tourists, you would be forgiven if you thought that you were in Benidorm, the Algarve or Izmir, but this is Weymouth after all and at 23C, the Dorset Riviera is beautiful!
Returning to the tried and tested Weymouth Beach, the Royal Navy Rugby Union family came together for the annual community beach rugby festival to throw a ball around, reunite with old shipmates, forge new friendships and ultimately enjoy a day of sport.
9 teams pitched up for the men’s event with HMS Heron and HMS Seahawk providing 2 and 3 teams respectively. The majority of teams were from the establishments with only HMS Dauntless and the Fleet Air Arm team from 825 Naval Air Squadron from front line units. Inexplicably, perhaps incredibly, there were no Royal Marine units, so who was going to challenge the dominance of the air stations!?
As it turns out, no-one could!
3 women’s teams from Seahawk, HM Naval Base Portsmouth and HMS Sultan mustered to play each other twice, with a number of 1st XV regulars playing at a tempo which suited the tournament. Congratulations go to HMNB Portsmouth Ladies on winning the Women’s event with a clean sweep of 4 wins. Seahawk struggled through bravely but were always playing catch up. Sultan were comfortably nestled in the middle of the table having won their two matches against the unfortunate Seahawk team who in all their games lost by the closest of margins.
The men’s teams were divided between two leagues by Ady Cherrington, the RNRU Rugby Development Officer, playing over 2 ‘pitches’. In League 1, Seahawk ‘A’ smashed their way through to the knock-outs only really being challenged by HMS Collingwood, pipping the training establishment by two scores. Falling in behind was Portsmouth, who squeezed through against Heron ‘B’ and Collingwood. The Dauntless team had a mountain to climb and will rue missed chances to add a ‘W’ to their scoresheet, losing to both Heron ‘B’ and ‘C’.
As expected in League 2 Heron ‘A’ topped the table but not as easily as some might have expected. Scoring 11 passed 825 Naval Air Squadron (whose motto of “Nothing Stops Us” seems in hindsight a touch ironic), Heron perhaps felt a little over confident as they were nearly turned over by gutsy performances, first from BRNC and secondly from Sultan who successfully navigated into the knock-outs after their one loss. HM Naval Base Devonport suffered some large losses and close run matches but achieved a ‘W’ against the forlorn Wildcat Squadron. BRNC will be disappointed that they didn’t reach the final rounds after scoring 23 tries and conceding only 12 in their 5 matches.
Onto the finals: Seahawk ‘A’ continued their fine form with a dominant display over the engineers from Sultan, winning 5 scores to 0; meanwhile in the second semi-final the match between Heron ‘A’ and Portsmouth was won by the airmen who posted a 4 try advantage meaning that Heron would meet Seahawk in a re-run of the 2017 competition. As usual it was a typically bruising encounter as the airmen battled it out with Seahawk taking the plaudits this time around winning by 5 scores to 4.
Seahawk's route to the cup
Cdr Mark ‘Beasty’ Williams said of the day’s spectacle: “I think beach rugby carries the very essence of rugby, distilled down into 4 intense minutes each way. It needs hard work, individual skill and team tactics to win. It's also a festival of tackles and contact work, and is great fun. Just make sure you close your mouth when you go to ground! Ady Cherrington and the team put on another great day of rugby. Thank you to everyone who took part for playing with sporting spirit and making it so much fun.”
And so in the words of Irish songsmith Van Morrison, utterly attributable to a RNRU day out playing rugby in Weymouth, “Smell the sea, and feel the sky, let your soul and spirits fly.”
Until next time…
Words: J Campbell-Baldwin
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © Keith Woodland