It’s Porridge for the Ancient Mariners at Burnaby Road
The third match in the RNRU Veterans XXV calendar for the 09/10 season was against a committed Prison Service team on a cold but dry night at Burnaby Road. Team Manager WO Glen Humphreys and Head Coach Lt Mick Connolly had prepared the team throughout the day and devised a game plan built around viewing as many players as they could in order to trim the 35-man squad down to 25 for the Inter Services. Both sides started brightly with early inroads in to HM Prison Service (HMP) territory nearly leading to an early try by the RN. But sterling goal line defence ensured that the score remain locked until some 10 minutes into the game. Possession and territory, plus RN indiscipline, led to HMP converting a simple penalty giving them a 3-0 lead. From the kick off, the RN drove the ball down field and drew the opposition offside to allow CPO Rick Astley to draw the teams level - 3-3.
Thereafter and for the rest of the half, Mick and his fellow coaches PO Neil Evans and CSgt Tony Hands, rotated the team with numerous changes, which unfortunately led to a lack of understanding between some players. This allowed the HMP team to cross the line twice within the space of 5 minutes. The first was turn over ball and a quick break out allowing a deft pass from the HMP prop to the wing who ran over from 20 yards out. This was soon followed by poor RN discipline leading to a tap penalty and the scrum half putting the wing in unopposed out on the right. The RN players galvanised themselves and defended admirably for the rest of the half, making several inroads into HMP territory, crossing the try line twice but on both occasions being held up. 13-3 down at the half.
The second half saw a settled and strong team, quickly able to put together some good passages of play. WO Chris Richards at 6 linking well with newcomer Sgt Lee Norris at 8 enabled some good driving open play to take the RN into the HMP half. Unfortunately, again, Navy discipline was found wanting and the HMP took instant advantage: a good field position allowed a quick scrum to feed the open side an easy run in under the posts - 3-20. Again, the RN responded with some outstanding line out play. Recently promoted WO Kev Boulton and Team Captain Mne Dom O'Connor lead from the front, but continued frustrations with some of the key decisions made by the Referee led to turn over ball and the HMP was able to take full opportunity to score again: 3-27.
The rest of the half was dominated by the RN who, building from continued possession and keeping their heads, resulting in the HMP committing a string of penalties, culminating in 2 HMP players being sin-binned. This enabled the team to finally break down a sterling HMP defence with Midshipman (Desig) Joe Ainsley crossing to make the score 8-27.
After the final whistle, Mick Connolly praised the team for coping as well they could with the continued disruption and changes, highlighted some good individual performances but emphasised the need to improve attitude, commitment and determination, especially in the contact area.
Next game is against TAUNTON RFC at Taunton, 1700 Wed 24 Mar 10.