La Marine Nationale Regains the Babcock Trophy
A successful weekend for French rugby saw not only the national team win the 6 Nations Championship but also La Marine Nationale (MN) - the French Navy - regain the Babcock Trophy with a win over the RN in Toulon.
Clearly buoyed by the support of their home crowd, the hosts put the RN under pressure from the kick off, lofting high balls and attacking aggressively. A large and very enthusiastic crowd, many of whom were in French Navy uniform, chanted "allez les bleues" - and the roars of support rang out around the Toulon stadium. In this high tempo match, the RN showed huge amounts of courage and total commitment as they thwarted several French attacks in the first 20 minutes. All this effort paid off as the RN kept the French to a lowly 6 points. To a man, the RN players stood firm and defended with pride and selfless determination.
The RN replied with their own penalty on 27 mins with RN skipper PO(AET) Dave Pascoe (RNAS Culdrose) taking the points, 6 -3. The French replied quickly with interest, when a well-worked move lead to the first French try; score 11 - 3 after 30 minutes. Almost on the half time whistle, the French were awarded a penalty for obstruction and took the kick to put the score at 14 -3 at the turnaround.
At the restart, the MN were quickly into their stride and a break by the scrum half was only halted by a heroic, try saving tackle by the RN stand off (PO Wayne John (HMS Liverpool). The RN looked determined and yet again, outstanding work in defence was to deny the French another score. Despite a lineout throw that was clearly not straight, the referee allowed play to continue and the MN right wing ran in for the try (unconv) - 19 - 3. The match then entered a period of stalemate until the 73rd minute when the French number 8 took a high ball kicked from deep and crossed the tryline to give the French an unassailable 26 - 3 lead. In the final minute of the game, the French scrum half launched a drop goal on target to put the final score at MN 29 - 3 RN.
This was a well deserved victory for the home team. Their preparation was evident and they were a well-drilled side, with almost faultless lineouts and very strong scrummaging. The French had recruited new blood into the side; particularly key were the hooker, number 8 and stand off who provided the backbone of their team and were pivotal to the creation of many scoring opportunities.
Although the scoreline would suggest otherwise, the RN can take great heart from this match. Strength and fitness levels of the RN players were noticeably improved and their ability to withstand repeated attacks was testament to their hard work and training. It was also invaluable preparation for playing in a pressurised setting and with a referee whose decisions at times were, at best, confusing. Players returning to the team from deployment included Cpl Gaz Evans (539 ASRM) and POET Wayne John (HMS Liverpool); LCpl Callum MaCrae (CTCRM) played his first full match on return from injury, clearly having lost none of his pace and aggression in the centre.
The series now stands at 4 -2 in favour of the RN, who remains the only team to have won this annual fixture away from home.
Capt T Glover RM (CTCRM), Mne S Llewellyn (Cdo Logs Regt RM) (ET(ME) J Marlin (HMS Sultan) - 76 min), L/Cpl C MaCrae (CTCRM), ET(ME) D Sleaman (HMS Cumberland), Mne J Stephens (CTCRM), POET (WE) W John (HMS Liverpool) (POET(WE) D Smallbone (HMS Liverpool) - 44 min), POAET D Pascoe (RNAS Culdrose)(C), Mne M Owen (42 Cdo RM), Cpl G Evans (539 ASRM), AB(WS) M Roberts (HMS Bulwark), SLt N Copeland RN (MWS Collingwood), (Mne M Egglestone (45 Cdo RM) - 69 mins), Capt S MaClaren RM (RMR Bristol) Mne K Morton (UKLFCSG) (POPT L Dennis (HMS Nelson) - 48 min), Cpl G Barden (RM Poole), LAET M Cormack (HMS Sultan).
The next match will see the RN take on Combined London Old Boys (CLOB) at Richmond on Wed 24th March, kick off at 1900. This fixture will provide an ideal opportunity to maximise game time for all members of the RNRU squad.