HARD DAY AT THE OFFICE FOR ROYAL NAVY WOMEN
It was always going to be a difficult task for the new look Royal Navy Rugby Union Women (RN(W)), with several first choice players either deployed on Operations, attending professional courses or injured.
Unlike the touring Australian Services squad, this would be the RN(W)'s first game of the season and even though many are playing regular rugby, to bring a squad together and play against a well drilled side with a fast and punishing back line was always going to be a challenge.
The Australian Women started the quicker and it became clear that they had the advantage in the backs, scoring 2 quick tries out wide. However, their kicking was not as sharp as their running game. The RN(W) was not letting the Aussie women have it all their own way and pushed them hard in the set piece.
It was the Aussie backs that caused the real problem as they scored 2 more converted tries to take a 0-26 lead.
The Navy Woman's scrum was holding firm, however the Aussie scrum half poached the ball from the back of the Navy scrum to score an unconverted try to increase the lead: 0-31.
Navy Skipper Lt (Charlie) Fredrickson (849 NAS) made some good headway as did LAET (Pam) Williams (RNAS Yeovilton) and the RN women briefly camped in the Aussie 22m. The Navy women seemed to have steadied the ship with some outstanding defence with some excellent tackling by LStd (Helen) Ing (HMS Nelson), however, their opponents picked up another 3 unconverted tries before the half: 0 - 46 at half time.
As the 2nd half started, shouts of support rained down from the stand onto the Navy women in the hope that they could get onto the scoreboard. The Aussie Women scored 2 tries in quick succession to extend their lead to 0 - 58.
In simple terms, the RN Women matched the Aussie Women at the breakdown but they struggled to get the ball along the backline. This was not proving to be a problem for the Aussie Women who again found space and out-paced the Navy, and in doing so took the score to 0-75.
RN(W) Head Coach Lt RN (Bali) Salisbury, in charge for his first game, must have been proud of his players as they fought for every ball, chased every try and more importantly, never gave up.
Of the new talent representing the RN(W), OC (Olivia) Critchley (DTUS), playing at Scrum Half is worthy of note, having been selected by the Aussies as the RN(W) Man of the Match due to her darting runs and turn overs around the scrum.
This high scoring game was always going to be difficult to follow score-wise but the ‘man in the middle' corrected the scoreboard (and the views of the crowd) by confirming it was a 0-99 win for the Australian Services Women.
RN(W) Chairwoman, Lt (Kirsty) Marlor RN said, "I am very proud that the RN(W) kept fighting to the end against probably the toughest opposition that we will face this season. The fact that we played 60 minutes with only 14 players shows their determination and true grit and I look forward to our next fixture against Bristol".
This will not be the last time the Navy Women will face the Australian Service Women as several of them have been selected for the Combined Services squad to play them in the Remembrance fixture at Virginia Park, home of Caerphilly RFC, on Wed 7 Nov (KO 2pm).
RN(W) Man of the Match - OC (Olivia) Critchley (DTUS).
1 - LAET Pam Williams
2 - MA Amy Risker
3 - NA(SE) Kat Cullen
4 - NA(AH) Caroline Penrose
5 - AET Kate Broadbere
6 - LPT Andrea Marshall
7 - Lt Charlotte Fredrickson (Captain)
8 - Lt Paula Bennett-Smith
9 - OC Olivia Critchley
10 - LAWT Emma Swinton
11 - AB Emma Rice
12 - ET Victoria Stansfield
13 - ET Sophia Dockerty
14 - AET Billi Staite
15 - LStd Helen Ing
Photos on the front page of the RNRU Website Courtesy of Mr Paul McCabe