RN (W) v Marine Nationale Feminines Match Report

Caroline Penrose wins the ball as the lineout finally came good.
Lizzie Grant can not escape the clutches of the strong Marine Nationale Feminines defence.
Parkman looks to drive to the line as the RN Women enjoyed some pressure early in the second half.
As ever Paula Bennett-Smith brought some straight, strong running to the Navy game as a second half replacement.
Sam Alderson, at fly half, had few opportunities in the first half but was able to get her backline in to the game during the second forty minutes
Hopefully Olly Critchley’s injured ankle is not too bad. She was the RN Women’s stand out play, here taking the game to the opposition but also ferocious in defence.
To the victor the spoils. Raphat receives the trophy from RAdm Parr.

Following its 34 million euro refit the Stade Léo Lagrange hosted the women’s match between the Marine Nationale and the Royal Navy. The excellent pitch and facilities certainly inspired the home team as they continued their unbeaten run in the series with another convincing win.

The early match was characterised by too many unforced errors although it was clear from the outset that the Royal Navy Women were under significant pressure to get any meaningful ball. The Marine Nationale Feminines pressurised them at lineout, scrum and tackle and it is to the RN’s credit that the home side had to wait until the fourteenth minute for their first try. It was the centre partnership of N’Diaye and Douthe that were causing problems with their direct and powerful running. It was therefore no surprise when N’Diaye broke the tackle from close range to open the scoring with the first try, which she also converted.

The partnership combined five minutes later and this time it was Dourthe who broke the line and despite the despairing tackle from Sam Alderson crossed for the second try. N’Diaye couldn’t add the conversion. From the restart a lack of concentration cost the Royal Navy Women dear as they allowed Dunabt to collect the ball unopposed. Another strong run from prop Garnier sucked in the defence before the ball was moved wide for fullback Doulet to score the French’s third try which was also converted.

The set back seemed to galvanise the Royal Navy Women and they had their best passage of play of the half. Charlie Fredrickson took a couple of quick penalties and when the Navy forwards were coming on to the ball they managed to make some headway. Unfortunately to often the play became static and the strong home defence cut down the Navy’s ball carriers. It was this defence that forced a number of penalties at the tackle. From one of these, late in the half, the Marine Nationale Feminines were able to set up field position and their Number 8 Henault crossed from short range for the try, again not converted. At half time the Royal Navy trailed 24 – 0.

The second half started with the French centres again proving to be a handful. First N’Diaye made a half break before Dourthe split the defence to go under the posts for try that was easily converted. Shortly after the restart the Marine Nationale Feminines were once more on the attack and this time, following a break by Moreau down the right wing, it was replacement backrow Rabier who was on hand to collect a neat chip through to score a try wide out.

A number of replacements lifted the energy levels of the Royal Navy Women and at last in the match they exerted some pressure of their own. However despite spending a long period in the Marine Nationale Feminine twenty-two and a number of drives from less than 5m out they were unable to breach the defence. A cross kick from Sam Alderson was collected by Chabert and the pressure was lifted. The Navy then succumbed to a succour punch that first allowed N’Diaye a clean break. She was unable to find her support but the Marine Nationale feminines kept exerting the pressure and eventually it was Lechenault that broke clear for a try under the posts. The conversion brought the score to 43 – 0.

You had to admire the Royal Navy Women’s spirit as once more they rallied themselves and looked to take the game to the French. The lineout began to function with Risker regularly finding Penrose as a source of good ball which Critchley and Alderson could use. For the first time in the match the Navy’s backline was seen with Greene, Swinton and Morton all making half breaks. Just as Olly Critchley was enjoying some good front foot ball she was caught at the base of a ruck and turned her ankle. It was a sad end to a performance that had been excellent in adversity. Her work rate and appetite for the tackle marked her out and in many ways hers was the player of the match performance.

However the final word deservedly went to the French when impressive fly half Driguez broke for the final score. The conversion brought the final result to 50 – 0. Overall a comprehensive win but the tenacity of the Royal Navy Women in defence could not be faulted. In N’Diaye and Dourthe the Marine Nationale certainly had two centres of excellence. All that was left was for Rear Admiral Parr to present Raphat with the trophy and the home teams celebrations could begin.

Marine Nationale (Feminines): Dumas, Chemmelat, Garnier, Raphat ©, Dubant, Kacem, Dauriac, Henault, Clerc, Driguez, Chabert, N’Diaye, Dourthe, Moreau, Doulet Reps: Matuszewski, Diarra, Lafaysse, Rabier, Bonneval, Lechenault, Delherbe, Vulliet.

Royal Navy (Women): Williams *, Park © *, Parkman, Penrose *, Mitchell, Fredrickson *, Bloor, Hargrave, Critchley, Alderson *, Blagdon, Morton, Grant, Brown, Marshall Reps: Risker, Dockerty, Bennett-Smith *, Greene *, Swinton *

Images by Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones