NEW ZEALAND WINS OPENING BATTLE IN BABCOCK COMMONWEALTH CUP
The Babcock Commonwealth Cup 2009 started with a well deserved win for the Royal New Zealand Navy over the Royal Australian Navy by 45 points to 12. The first silverware of the competition went to the New Zealanders as they overcame a spirited Australian Navy team at Plymouth Albion on Tuesday night. The Shelford-Stokes International Shield, presented for the first time this year, will be making its way to New Zealand. The trophy was named after former RNZN sailor, undefeated All Black Captain and life patron of the RNZN Rugby Union Wayne (Buck) Shelford. A blustery and damp evening did not deter around 1200 spectators from braving the elements to witness the opening game of the Babcock Commonwealth Cup. The crowd was not disappointed as the competition got off to rousing start with the Kiwis laying down the gauntlet with the traditional “Haka”. This set the scene for a great game of rugby in very challenging conditions. Early pressure by the Kiwis was met by some very aggressive counter-rucking by the Aussies. However, an early mistake by the Aussies over their own line allowed the Kiwis to touch down. 5-0. The Aussies had a chance to reduce the deficit but were unable to convert a penalty for off-side; they were to pay for this missed opportunity as the Kiwis started a move in their own half and a combination of some fast hands and off-loads, saw their full back score their second try. 10-0 after 22 mins. This score was to be reduced as the Aussies scrum half gave a reverse pass to the full back who scythed through the New Zealand defence to score under the posts; Dean Brown converted making the score 10-7. The New Zealanders hit back with a powerful drive from the forwards leading to a try 15-7. Just before half time, they increased the margin further with a penalty which was converted by Morgan Findlay. H/T 18-7. The second half started with the Kiwis in the driving seat and only the conditions saw many of their attacks break down without result. After 5 mins another Kiwi attack saw the Openside Slade Stermy score which was converted by Morgan Findlay. 25-7. The Kiwis could smell victory and so upped the pressure; only some sterling Aussie defence was to keep them out. It took a penalty for an offside that allowed the Kiwis to extend their lead to 28-7 after 59mins. The Aussies tried another tactic and a series of penalties against the Kiwis which were kicked to touch placed them in a good attacking position. Another lineout saw the Kiwis caught napping as the Aussie No8 take a pop ball from the hooker to go around the front of the lineout and score. 28-12 (64mins) This spurred on the Kiwis as the No8 was not to be outdone by his opposite number and picking a ball up from the back of a ruck, he trundled over the line making the score 35-12 (67mins). The next score was to be a piece of individual skill as Morgan Findlay chipped over the top of a Aussie rush defence and with luck on his side and the shape of the ball which bounced cruelly for the covering player, he collected and scored. 40-12 (73mins). The last scoring play of the game again saw Findlay involved as he bounced off a couple of Aussie defenders before offloading to the outside centre to score on the 39th min. 45-12 Final score. This was the widest margin for the RNZN against the RAN for 15 years. The Tour Commander, Cdr Shaun Fogarty RNZN, paid compliment to his team’s performance. “It was a very pleasing game for us after a lengthy build up over recent months” he said. “I was very happy with our back play, which was achieved courtesy of a very solid forward performance. Good execution of set-play and some slick backline moves resulted in well deserved haul of 7 tries.” He paid tribute to the performance and leadership of the team Captain saying “Player of the day and No.8 Sub Lieutenant Damien Gibbs had an outstanding game off the back of the scrum and roaming in loose play.” He added that he was looking forward to taking on the Royal Navy on Friday. The showdown between the holders and home team, the Royal Navy, and the Kiwis takes place on Friday 9th October, KO 7.15pm. Before that match, the Australians have a chance for revenge as they take on a Royal Navy Presidents’ XV at 4pm. Both games will be played at Plymouth Albion RFC.