Fleet Air Arm Battle to Western Win

With both sides unbeaten from the opening round there was significant anticipation before the round two match between Western Region and the Fleet Air Arm.  Western, buoyed from a comprehensive victory over Eastern, used the fast Keyham surface to open an early lead before the Fleet Air Arm staged a second half comeback to leave with a hard earned win 33 – 15.

With the Royal Marines scoring an emphatic victory the night before in the Medics challenge both sides knew that it was important to get a second victory under their belts to see off what is sure to be a late Royal Marine surge in the competition.  In excellent conditions it was Western Region who confirmed that their win over Eastern Region was not a flash in the pan and that they really are beginning to fulfil their potential.  As in the first game it was Johnny Stephen, at scrum half who controlled the tempo of the game aided by the shrewd stewardship of Silvenusi Buinimasi from the wing in the first half and from the heart of the action, at Number 8 throughout the second.  From the outset they took the game to the visitors and forced the Fleet Air Arm into a number of uncharacteristic errors.  With the game up front achieving parity it was down to the Western back division to give the home side the edge.

A try from each winger along with a conversion and a penalty from Josh Jones enabled them to establish a 15-0 lead as the game approached half time.  With Western Region pushing for a further score before half time they were rocked by a Ben Clarke interception try and Jon Humphrey conversion.  With the game 15 -7 at the break it was still a lead but probably a little less than Western deserved.

The sucker blow before half time was clearly the turning point of the game, along with the break that the Fleet Air Arm needed to regroup.  The second half saw a significant change in fortunes.  The Fleet Air Arm reduced their error count and as in the first round match turned to their pack of forwards.  With the scrum now dominant Western were having to play off the back foot and were unable to hold on to their lead. 

Having scored a brace against the Corps it seems that FAA and Navy lock, Marsh Cormack has the taste for tries.  He helped himself to two more against Western to nose the Fleet Air Arm in to the leave.  The third was also courtesy of the pack when Kye Beasley went over under the posts, from his optimum distance of less than five metres. 

With a two score cushion Western knew they had to achieve something spectacular but were continually being driven back by the now much improved Fleet Air Arm play.  When a clearance kick was charged down for Aaron Hunt to claim the fifth try the game was dead and buried as a contest.

The 33-15 win leaves Fleet Air Arm unbeaten and in poll position to make the final.  However both sides knew it could easily have been very different.  Ben Clarke’s try was a game changer but Western know that they are competitive against the best in the competition.  However if they are to make the final themselves they will probably need to win both their last two matches, away to Northern on the 19th November and away to the Royal Marines on the 10th December.  A difficult challenge but one they must surely be relishing.

The Fleet Air Arm sit out the next round before they, like Western must travel to Scotland to play Northern Region on 10th December.  However they finish with a match at their spiritual home, HMS Heron on 14th January 2015 when they will be looking to despatch Eastern Region and more importantly give themselves the chance to make amends for last year’s performance in the Inverdale Challenge Final, currently scheduled for 28th January 2015 at Burnaby Road, Portsmouth.

Images by Alligin Photography / © Mark Andrews

Western and Royal Navy scrum half, Johnny Stephen, controlled the early tempo of the game.
Silvenusi Buinimasi provided experience and versatility in the Western team
Josh Jones clears. His penalty and conversion helped Western establish a 15-0 lead
The Fleet Air Arm fight back was led by their forwards and their scrum in particular.
Cory Moore clears the ball for the Fleet Air Arm
Paul Saberton makes a break for the Fleet Air Arm
FAA and Royal Navy prop, Kye Beasley, scores under the posts to extend the Fleet Air Arm lead