Navy U23s Have a Point to Prove
The Royal Navy Under 23 team begin their 2013 Inter Service campaign with a tough away trip to Ealing Trailfinders and a point to prove from last season. Those who followed their campaign in 2012 will have seen a group of players develop into an effective team. Following a poor start against Chichester they showed remarkable progress through to a deserved win in their opening Inter Service match, at home to the Royal Air Force, and to the championship's conclusion at Aldershot. At the home of Army Rugby the Navy U23s produced a performance that was resolute in defence but also capable of taking their opportunities in attack. Both teams had chances to win the game in the dying minutes but in the end the Navy could not repeat their 2010 victory and had to settle for a draw. At half time during the RAF U23 v Army U23 match the Navy were still 'virtual' Inter Service champions but a strong second half gave the Army the title and left the Navy to rue the dropped point.
However the success of the U23's is not just about their results. Again, from last season's team, a number of players were drafted into the post Christmas Senior squad. Captain Tom Davies and Josh Terry both going on to be capped and play in the end of season Army Navy match. Josh was also recognised with the Proud Heritage Exciting Future award. A number of others were at Twickenham on Army Navy day, but in Combined Services' colours. Unfortunately under the captaincy of Navy player, Mark Jones, the CS U23s were well beaten by the Varsity players of Oxbridge. No doubt some of the players that day, who are still in the squad, will wish to lay a few ghosts when the Navy U23s take on Oxford University and Cambridge University at Burnaby Road and Grange Road respectively. In particular Sam Davies could be slightly aggrieved that he wasn't rewarded with a CSU23 start. Clearly the form centre in the Inter Service tournament he followed this up with a number of effective contributions in the Senior shirt including the arduous trip to the Rec and Bath United. I am sure that both U23 Head Coach, Scott Ashley, and Navy Head Coach, Owen Salmon will be again watching his development with interest.
This season the Royal Navy U23s face their most daunting fixture list of recent years. A new opening fixture against Ealing Trailfinders, a club buoyant after winning National League One last season, will certainly prove demanding. Their U23s have already tasted early season success at the annual Wasps 10-a-side tournament. After this tough opening match the Navy U23s have three home matches at Burnaby Road where Chichester, Portsmouth University and Oxford University are the visitors. Cambridge University are the final opponents, away, before Burnaby Road hosts the start of the 2013 U23 Inter Service tournament with a Friday night Army Navy encounter. The Navy U23s will be looking improve on last seasons draw before they conclude their season with a tricky, Friday afternoon match, against the Air Force at RAF Halton.
As ever success will be measured both by results and player development. Scott will once more be welcoming back a number of players from last season in both playing and development roles. With a number of new players already identified, and others sure to be found over the next couple of months, it looks as if he will have an exciting squad to work with. With the RAF already having recorded a morale boosting victory away at Cambourne and the Army's continued strength, in all their representative sides, the next couple of months should provide plenty of Service rugby to generate comment before the arguments, at U23 level at least, are settled at the end of November.