HMS Cumberland Ladies Take Centre Stage
After 4 months of the HMS Cumberland Men's XV grabbing all the headlines it was the turn of the Ladies to show off their rugby skills whilst the Ship was alongside in Dubai. First up were Sharjah Wanders, a Gulf Women's championship side who play regular 7s matches within the Gulf Region. HMS Cumberland has only 30 girls to choose from but are blessed with having 3 Royal Navy Union players in MID Becky Chapman, LCIS Mamie Battersby and ETME Lavenia Vakuruivalu and a Royal Navy Rugby League player, LCT Carla Pashby. Having 4 experienced players helps but 7s is a tough game at the best of time so when no less than 10 of the other girls onboard pulled on their boots for the first time. After being taught the basics by coaches Lt Dusty Miller and CPO Dave Sibson then going through an extensive warm up and in front of a substantial crowd the Cumberland Ladies took to the park and were caught out early with the physicality and speed of the seasoned opponents, conceding 2 early scores in the first 7 min quarter.
Finding their lungs the Ladies pulled together and under pressure in their own 22 Sal Nadakuca forced an error which Battersby scooped up, rounded the covering defence and scored in the corner. Sharjah took the next two scores making the half time score 20-5. The next quarter was scoreless to the credit of the Ladies as AB Jess Brown, WTR Gemma Gerrish and CPO Sarah Roberts worked hard in defence. 7 mins to go and the heat played its part as the Sharjah girls turned the screw making the final score 35-5.
A week later after the bruises had died down the Cumberland ladies took on the Dubai Exiles at the Emirates 7's stadium under floodlights. 2 hours more training had the Ladies eager to get started, getting off to a flying 1st quarter and scoring two tries through Capt Battersby and Navy Centre Vakuruivalu. This was matched by a young and fast Exiles side making it 10-10. More new blood took to the field from the Cumberland Ladies with MID Steph Buttery, SC Marie Leonard and AB Alex Tobbell all getting stuck in, a 2nd score from a chip and chase by Vakuruivalu made it 15-10 at the half way point
Exiles pace took its toll in the last 2 quarters and they sneaked ahead by 2 scores before a slick handling move saw ex Navy Footballer LETME H Wilson finish Cumberland's best move of the game. The tide turning back in the favour of the Cumberland Ladies but just to late as referee MJR Steve Henly (also embarked on HMS Cumberland) blew the final whistle with the score 20-25 to the Exiles.