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Royal Navy Rugby Union stalwart and former Physical Training Instructor, Bob Penfold MBE, has, this month been inducted into HMS Temeraire’s PTI Hall of Fame. Bob is the only former RNRU player to have achieved this honour and joins three others with rugby connections in Sean Cole (RNRU Strength and Conditioning Coach) and the Rugby League duo of Wayne O’Kell and James Barnes.
Still regularly seen on the touchline where both his sons, Rory and Michael, have represented the Royal Navy U23s, Bob is best remembered as an abrasive wing three quarter with pace and power. He made his Navy debut in 1981, which was an Inter Service winning year with a 15-12 win over the Royal Air Force and a 7-3 victory in the Army Navy match. He clearly made an impression in his debut season, as a 20 year old, because in the December of that year he was selected to win his first Combined Services cap against the touring Australians. In that first encounter he played opposite highly rated Queensland international Brendan Moon. With two further caps for CS also against Australia Bob also had to contain another Aussie flyer who could cause defences many a sleepless night, a certain David Campese. Subsequent Combined Services caps included matches against Canada, Romania, the French Armed Forces and his last match, against South Korea.
Bob was also in the next Royal Navy side to win the Inter Services. However the team of 1987 also holds another claim to fame as they went through the season unbeaten. The season started with a narrow win over Cornwall, 7-3 before culminating ten matches later with a 13-6 victory over the Royal Air Force, to reclaim the title, having earlier comfortably beaten the Army 21-10. Obviously the successful tour to Australia in 1986 had laid the foundations for the memorable campaign. Bob won the last of his caps in 1991 where unfortunately the side could not match the achievements of his opening season. However an eleven year career is an excellent achievement and it was only a number of deployments that preventing Bob from accumulating more than his 12 caps.
Having had a successful playing career with Devonport Services, Plymouth Albion and Devon, Bob then turned his energies into helping others. As a coach he achieved notable tournament wins in the Royal Navy and Devon 7s when serving at BRNC but probably his most testing and satisfying achievement, as a coach, was introducing American Service personnel to a sport without body armour when serving with NATO in Naples. His success led to his selection as backs coach to the Royal Navy Senior XV. Coaching led to Team Management where he formed a management tag team with the late and greatly missed Soapy Watson. Having earned the respect of all as a Team Manager he was invited, in 2004, to be the Combined Services Team Manager for the annual Remembrance Day match against the Barbarians.
Bob’s induction to the Hall of Fame is well merited and reflects over 25years dedicated to playing and helping other to play rugby union throughout the Fleet and indeed around the world. Congratulations from all those involved with Navy Rugby.
Images © Crown Copyright and Courtesy of Trevor Gatehouse and Bob Penfold