Oxford University gets the blues in Portsmouth

On a good pitch the RN Senior XV opened the evening with the first game of the 2011/12 Season against Oxford University at US Portsmouth Ground, Burnaby Rd, Portsmouth. In previous meetings between the 2 teams, Oxford had always proved to be a difficult opponent and this year's team was no exception, boasting 8 Blues in the squad.

The Navy, under new Director of Rugby (DoR) Lt Cdr (Andy) Kellett and new Head Coach CPO (Ash) Coates, selected a side that had a good mix of both youth and experience.

As the game started it was clear that both teams wanted to run the ball and play a very open, fast game. It was Oxford who had the better of the opening exchanges and challenged the Navy set pieces. However, the Navy defence was resolute and drove the Oxford team back behind their gain line on several occasions.   

The Navy team made life difficult for itself when it was reduced to 14 players for 10 mins following repeated infringements. This extra man gave Oxford the space it needed in the Navy defence and following a good passage of play that saw the Oxford players off-loading the ball in the tackle to good effect, an overlap was created on the left wing. This allowed JJ Dargan to get the opening he needed and his pace proved too much for the first line defence - it looked as if Oxford would be the first to score. Fortunately the Navy Captain POET (Dave) Pascoe (RNAS Culdrose) provided the cover defence and not only stopped Dargan but caused the player to knock the ball on giving the Navy a 5-metre scrum.

The Navy continued to press hard and gained several kickable penalties, but instead of taking the easy points, opted to kick to the corner. The Navy pressure was beginning to tell and led to Oxford being reduced to 14 men for 10 mins. From the ensuing penalty the Navy again kicked to the corner, secured the lineout and drove for the Oxford line, only to be thwarted by a solid Oxford defence. From the following Navy scrum, the backline eventually managed to free Navy winger Log (Roko) Kurusasa (HMS Dragon) who crossed the line for the first and only try of the first half, converted by Pascoe (7-0) HT. 

Changes in the front row at half time allowed AET Metcalfe (RNAS Yeovilton) to get on for his first game in the Senior XV when he replaced ET (ME) Parry (HMS Monmouth).

As the second half started, the game settled into a regular pattern of Oxford gaining the upper hand only for the Navy defence to drive them back. It was from one of these pressure defences that a loose pass from Oxford was pounced upon by ET(ME) (Dale) Sleeman (WMO Devonport) and almost produced an early try for the Navy; yet again, it was only good Oxford scramble defence that prevented an almost certain score.

It was during an Oxford attack that Kurusasa came off his wing to close down the extra man Oxford had managed to bring into the line. Sadly this tackle left Kurusasa on the ground. Good observation by the Referee and a quick response from the Navy medical team, led by Surg Lt Cdr (Owen) Rainey (HMS Neptune) cared for the player. We all wish Roko a very speedy recovery!

Following this stoppage, it was the Navy who responded quickest and applied pressure to the Oxford line. Following a set piece the Navy attacked down the blind side. Only those in the crowd not following the ball watched the heated discussion between several of the Navy and Oxford backs which led to both the Navy and Oxford teams finishing the game with 14 players.

It was the Navy who finished the game stronger as they first increased their lead as Pascoe converted a penalty 10-0 and then during the final Oxford attack, swarmed the Oxford back line forcing another penalty for ‘holding on'. Final Score 10-0.

This was a very encouraging start to the Navy Senior XV season, with a number of young players clearly being intent on staking a claim to the coveted Navy shirt.

DoR Lt Cdr (Andy) Kellett RN said of the first game "This is not only the first week the squad has been together but the first time they have played in the same team together" Andy went on to say "It is a very encouraging start to the season and we can build upon what we saw tonight, the team never gave up and were dominant towards the end of a very bruising encounter." 

The RN Senior XV's next game is on the Wed 29 Feb against Cambridge University at Cambridge KO 7.15pm

Navy Squad:

ET(ME) J Parry (HMS Monmouth) (Rep AET R Metcalfe (RNAS Yeovilton)), NA(AH) B Priddey, NA(AH) K Beasley, NA(AH) J Quarnivalu, POET(AE)  M Cormack (All RNAS Culdrose), (AET G Jones (WMO Portsmouth) (Rep Mne B Fox (45 Cdo RM)), Mne R Ramakita (42 Cdo RM), MA S Laird (HMS Collingwood) (Rep ET(ME) T Smart (HMS Daring)), POET(AE) D Pascoe (Capt) (RNAS Culdrose), Capt T Glover RM (CTCRM), AET B Clarke (RNAS Yeovilton), ET(ME) D Sleeman (WMO Devonport), Mne N Huntley (40 Cdo RM), Logs R Kurusasa (HMS Dragon) (Rep AB D Bamforth (HMS Dragon)), AET J Humphrey (RNAS Yeovilton)


Mne D Taylor (42 Cdo RM), CPOET (WE) W John (HMS Nelson), SLt J Rylah RN (HMS Echo)

Follow Navy Rugby on Twitter@RNRugby or visit the website http://www.navyrugbyunion.co.uk/