Esher 34 – Royal Navy 14
The Navy continued their preparations for 2011 Inter Services with a hard physical encounter with Esher on Tue night. Though they will have been disappointed with the result and conceding 4 tries there was amble evidence that the team are progressing in the right direction.
The match started with the Navy enjoying the bulk of possession but finding it difficult to break down and well-organised and aggressive Esher defence. On the couple of occasions that Navy standoff Wayne John (HMS Liverpool) made the half break he was unable to find the pass to maintain continuity. However despite this bright opening passage the Navy found themselves behind on the scoreboard when Esher converted a 14 min penalty awarded for a tackle infringement. This lead was extended 5 mins later when Esher converted a 2nd penalty awarded for offside.
The Navy's response was characteristic of the way they are currently playing, a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous. A lineout steal was swiftly moved up the blindside before Jon Marlin (HMS Chatham) was stopped short of the line. Quick ball then presented the Navy with a gold-plated chance for an easy score. Poor passing and alignment resulted in the try proving more challenging and eventually Calum MacRae (CTCRM) went outside the last man to score the opening try of the match. Navy captain Dave Pascoe (771 NAS, RNAS Culdrose) made the conversion to give the Navy a 6-7 lead.
This was probably a fair reflection of the match. However, the Navy were punished twice before halftime when Esher capitalised on Navy errors to set up attacking positions from which they scored 2 converted tries for a 20 - 7 halftime lead.
The second half followed much the same pattern as the first. A much-changed Navy side continue to show glimpses of what they are working towards but were frequently punished through their own mistakes. Early in the half Esher extended their lead when the forwards drove over from an attacking 5m lineout and but for being held up in in-goal they may have had a 2nd try from exactly the same situation.
With the game remaining at a good tempo and both sides always looking for the attacking opportunity it was surprising that it took until the middle of the second half for the next score. This time the Navy had the advantage of a 5m lineout and despite Esher repelling the first drive to the line they were unable to prevent Will Cairns (CFPS) from crossing over for a well deserved try.
Esher though were not prepared to let the Navy get a foothold in the match and they soon responded through a well worked try which saw their fullback pierce the Navy's midfield defence for what proved to be the final score of the match and a well deserved 34-14 victory to Esher.
The Navy's next match is on Fri 18 Mar in Cork when they renew their rivalry with the Irish Defence Forces. Prior to that a development XV are due to play Combined London Old Boys, at Richmond FC, on Wed 16 Mar. On the same evening both the Mariners and the RN(W) are in action at Burnaby Rd, Portsmouth.