COMBINED SERVICE GATHERING AT SOUTHEND-ON-SEA
A few weeks ago Navy and SRU referee Dunx McClement was informed that he would be going on an exchange with the RFU. It was initially unclear which of the two exchange fixtures he would get assigned to but with a week to go he was informed by e-mail that it would be a Level 4 game between Southend and Canterbury. It was at this point that it became clear that there would be some friendly faces on the touchline as, purely by coincidence, the AR appointments for that fixture were none other than Tim Bailey and Mike Priestley; Tim being a stalwart of Navy Rugby refereeing and Mike a key figure in both the RAF and Combined Services refereeing scene, but also a member of the RN fraternity, a legacy of his time based in Portsmouth when he started his refereeing . To complete the Combined Service triumvirate the coach of Canterbury was the ex-Scotland and Army prop Mattie Stewart.
Having flown down from Glasgow the night before with traffic chaos throughout the country all concerned had a nervous night's wait as fixtures fell by the wayside with alarming regularity. Luckily the fixture was one of only two Level 4 games to go ahead and, despite wind, snow and low temperatures, the game went ahead without a hitch; though travelling to the game proved a little interesting in places.
With Southend still in danger of being sucked into a relegation battle a win was vital to them for their survival. The game got off to a great start for them and after a disallowed try in the first two minutes for offside Southend took the lead through a penalty and then a try. Canterbury stayed in touch throughout the game but it was clear that Southend wanted it more and in the end ran out 19-11 winners. The team of three worked well together with the RFU observer giving them a good post-match debrief and report.
The weekend though did not end there for Dunx as he and another referee on exchange from Scotland, Gordon Corry, were appointed as AR 1 and 2 to the BUCS Women's University Final at Twickenham the following day. The Combined Service theme for the weekend did not stop here though, as the referee was Nikki O'Donnell currently of the Army but also previously of the RAF Reserve.
This game between Exeter University and Cardiff Metropolitan University was also a hard fought contest with Cardiff taking an early lead with a try against the run of play. After a second try following a brilliant cross field kick Cardiff extended their lead to 12-0. Exeter rallied and recovered to 12-5 at half time. The second half saw Exeter pile on the pressure and, after turning down a penalty to take the game to extra time, were still trailing by 15-12 as they entered the last two minutes. A sustained period of pressure and some excellent recycling and handling Exeter crossed in the corner to score their final try and win the game 17-15. Again the team worked well together with Nikki putting in a great performance at HQ.
Of the weekend Dunx said ‘It was brilliant to get an exchange fixture with the RFU and then have the opportunity to run touch at Twickenham but what made the weekend was the fact that Service referees were at the centre of it all and providing familiar and friendly faces at every turn.'
Post-match Combined Service huddle: (L-R) Tim Bailey (AR1 and Navy), Dunx McClement (Refereee and Navy), Mattie Stewart (Canterbury Coach and Army), Mike Priestley (AR2 and RAF).
BUCS Women's University Final Team: (L-R) Gordon Corry (AR2, SRU), Georgina Crabb (AR 5, RFU), Nikki O'Donnell (Referee, RFU and Army), Melanie Liley (AR4, RFU), Dunx McClement (AR1, SRU and Navy)
Tim Bailey, Duncan McClement & Mike Priestley