HMS Nelson Volunteer Band welcomed the teams to the pitch in Portsmouth this evening in Round 1 of the 2012 U23 Inter Service Championship. 

As former RAF player Nicki O'Donnell in the middle tonight started the game it was always going to be an interesting affair. The greasy ball caused the Navy some difficulties as they knocked-on from the kick off. However, it was clear from the outset that the Navy had the edge in the set piece.  

Skipper AB (WS) (Tom) Davies (HMS Illustrious) let his opposite number know early that this was going to be a night ‘big hits'. The Navy showed early that they had the pace outside which was see  from a set piece when Mne (Mo) Andrews (43 Cdo FPGRM) out-paced the RAF winger to gain some very useful yardage for the Navy, sadly there would be little opportunity for Andrews or the Navy's other speedster AET (Bobby) Conroy-Smith (RNAS Culdrose) to show their true ability.

The scrum set-piece allowed the Navy back row to get across the gain line with easy and ET(ME) (SM) (John) Henty at No 8 gave the forwards a good target and the backs an excellent platform.

The Navy camped in the RAF half for long periods of time buy with nothing to show for it.  Even as 2nd Rows Mne (Sam) White (RM Stonehouse) and ET(WE) (SM) (Dylan) Woods (HMS Torbay) provided additional ‘go forward' power the pass was either behind the on-coming player or due to the ferocity of the RAF tackling the ball was spilled.

Following a penalty AB (Aaron) Lewis (HMS Vengeance) pushed the ball deep into the RAF 22m and following a well-controlled ‘catch and drive' White managed to get over the line for the first score of the game, converted by Lewis 7-0 (32 mins). This was to be the only score of the first half.

The Navy started the 2nd half in the same vain as the first and it took only 4 mins before Skipper Davies ran a line that held the RAF defence and allowed Lewis to convert a drop goal. (44mins 10-0).


The RAF continued to use the back of the lineout with limited success and this placed their back line under pressure as Mne (Scott) Puleston (30 Cdo IX Gp) welcomed both the free ball and chance to challenge the RAF back line supported as ever by fellow back rower L/Cpl (John) Barnett (45 Cdo RM). Following a period of ill-discipline by the Navy, the RAF through Hooker SAC (Brad) Cook who converted a penalty to bring the RAF back to 10-3.

Mne (Josh) Blackburn (DST Leconsfield) came on to join his fellow Commonwealth Cup Winner's in his favourite position on the wing.

The RAF pulled back another 3 points and as the game entered the last 15 mins it was poised to be an interesting period (10-6).     

A good attack down the left by the Navy was halted and the ball spilled which allowed Cpl (James) Hodge to carve his way through the Navy defence and score a converted try (10-13).

This was time for the Navy U23 to step up to the mark and they did just that, following a kickable penalty the Navy opted for the lineout and after some intense pressure Puleston ended up with the ball in his hand and dropped over the line for a converted try 17-13.

As the final minutes ticked away the RAF tried hard to come back but again the ball was turned over and the Navy cleared the ball to touch and the final whistle was blown. FT 17-13  

Skipper Davies was presented with the Trophy by Air Commodore (Stephen) J Kell (Chairman of RAF Rugby Union)

One down, One to go!

The Royal Navy travel to Aldershot in a week's time to see if they can wrestle the Championship away from the Army KO 7.30pm.