Irish eyes were not smiling in Portsmouth
The Six Nations weekend saw the Royal Navy Senior XV renew its rivalry with the Irish Defence Forces (IDF) at Burnaby Road, Portsmouth. This was the ninth meeting of the two sides, the first being in 2002 at London Welsh. The overall series stood at 5 - 3 to the Royal Navy, with the home side being the current holders of the trophy and determined to retain it on home soil.
This annual encounter has been notable for the closeness and competitiveness of the games, with every one going to the wire; this year's match was to prove no exception, with the margin of victory yet again being within one score. The IDF has consistently been hard, committed and determined opponents and provide a good test for the RN in the build up to the Inter Services.
The Navy welcomed back POAET Dave Pascoe (RNAS Culdrose) at scrum half and Captain, with Marine Rob Lloyd (42 Cdo RM) starting in the centre and Marine Jonny Stephens on the wing. Logs (CS) Josh Drauniniu (HMNB Portsmouth) was making his first appearance in a Navy shirt since the Babcock Commonwealth Cup back in October.
Declaring their intent to contest every ball and work hard to challenge the RN, the Irish kept early pressure at bay. It wasn't until 24 minutes of play that Navy Stand Off Capt Tom Glover RM (CTCRM) chased his own kick through but the referee judged that he was obstructed. POAET Dave Pascoe (RNAS Culdrose) kicked the penalty to put the RN ahead. Despite a number of scoring opportunities for both sides, neither was able to convert these into points. The IDF missed 2 penalty kicks and the score stood at 3 - 0 to the RN at the change around.
The second half started with both teams maintaining a high work rate and competing fiercely in the breakdown. The Navy scrum continued to perform very well, putting the Irish pack under sustained pressure. After 20 minutes of the second half, a penalty to the RN resulted in a lineout on the Irish 5 meter line; a catch and drive put Marine ‘Eggy' Egglestone (45 Cdo RM) over the line to score the first try of the evening. Minutes later the IDF was awarded a penalty in the Navy's 22 in front of the posts and number 10, Captain Beckan Bernard Idf was able to add their first points of the match. After 38 minutes of play, a rolling maul from an IDF lineout gave them a well-deserved try, converted by replacement Lt Kilbride to give them the lead by 10 points to 8. A missed drop goal and 4 unsuccessful penalty kicks kept the IDF total to 10 points.
A good passage of play followed, with the RN breaking through the IDF line a number of times, but failing to find the try line. In the dying minutes of the match, the strength of the Navy scrum paid dividends, wheeling an IDF scrum on their 5 metre line to gain the put in. The navy scrum drove over the Irish line for a touch down by replacement back row, POPT Les Dennis (HMS Nelson). Final score RN 13 - 10 IDF.
This was a hard, gritty and determined performance by the Royal Navy, managing to snatch victory just before the final whistle, to bring the series to 6 - 3 in favour of the RN against dogged and tenacious opposition.
The Navy's next match is on Tue 2nd March at Esher; the next International weekend sees the RN take on the French Navy in Toulon on Friday 19th March.
Royal Navy: LAET A Vance (HMS Nelson), Log(CS) Josh Drauniniu (HMNB Portsmouth), Mne R Lloyd (42 Cdo RM), D Sleaman (HMS Cumberland) (ET(ME) Jon Marlin (HMS Sultan) - 72 min), Mne Jonny Stephens (CTCRM), Capt T Glover RM (CTCRM) (Mne Scott Llewellyn (Cdo Logs Regt RM - 50 min), POAET Dave Pascoe (RNAS Culdrose) (C), Mne M Owen (42 Cdo RM) (OC Tom Blackburn (BRNC/HMS Ark Royal) - 70 min), PO(AH) A Laity (RNAS Culdrose) (NA(AH) Ben Priddy - 50 min), AB(WS) M Roberts (HMS Bulwark), LAET M Cormack (HMS Sultan), Capt S McClaren RM (RMR Bristol), SLt N Copeland RN (MWS Collingwood) (POPT Les Dennis (HMS Nelson) - 58 min), Cpl G Barden (RM Poole) (Mne Kieran Morton (UKLFCSG) - 68 min), Mne Michael Egglestone (45 Cdo RM).