RNRU President's Select XV - Babcock Commonwealth Cup 2009

RNRU President's Select XV - Babcock Commonwealth Cup 2009 By Lt Cdr Arty Shaw Due to the late withdrawal of the South African Navy team from the competition, a fourth team was put together at very short notice to fill this void, to ensure that the visiting teams were given more opposition and the public would still enjoy a good standard of rugby. The RN Rugby Union President's Select XV was thus born and was made up from RN Veterans, RN Under-23s, players on the fringe of the RN Senior XV and Navy Command level players. This was a truly mixed bag of talent but all gave of their best and provided good opposition for both visiting Navy teams. The Ancient Mariners' Management Team, the ‘RNRU Veterans XXXV ‘, was tasked with arranging, organising, coaching and supporting this unique arrangement and, given that there were only 7 working days to do all of this, they went about their task with enthusiasm, persuasion, guile and stirling initiative! Led by WO1 Glen Humphries, the call went out to the RN and Command squads to provide a good cross section of players that would bring youth, experience, talent and potential to the competition. Some 25 players assembled at the Rectory in Devonport at 1000 on Fri 6 Oct and were quickly formed into an effective and coherent unit by Head Coach, Lt Mick Connolly, and PO Neil Evans with the brief of ‘let the shackles go, play open and positive rugby, play for pride in the RN Shirt and above all, enjoy it'. It was with some excitement, as well as no small amount of trepidation that the team emerged onto the pitch at 1600 that afternoon to play their first game together as a unit. RNRU President's Select XV v Royal Australian Navy In dry, but deteriorating conditions, the RN Select XV with Chaz Channing as Skipper, started the game the livelier of the 2 teams with Mick Connolly's brief being followed to the letter. Instant inroads into the RAN territory should have led to early points but, as with all newly formed teams, it was the last pass, the misunderstanding of intent and the odd mistimed run, which meant that this early pressure was not converted into points. Once the RAN had absorbed this early pressure, their experience as a team began to tell with some forward drives making ground into Select XV territory, and plenty of solid and straight running by RAN Centre LS Shane Robson - who became a thorn in the side throughout the game - leading to 2 tries within the first 20 minutes. Soon thereafter, and as the select XV began to click, great forward play from Nail Copeland and Kev McCrossin led to the RAN coming offside at the tackle, enabling Taff Fuge to grab the first points of the game with a 30 metre penalty kick. This gelled the team immediately and the tails of the squad began to rise. The Backs began to run an expansive game with great support play from the back row - with WO2 Chris Richards RM leading from the front and showing his counterparts a clean pair of heels at the ripe old age of 42! Although the RAN scored a try against the run of play, the Select XV did not let their heads drop and were rewarded just before half time with a magically worked try under the posts. Sam Mulane delivered a great long-range spin pass to Taff Fuge who deftly chipped the ball over the imposing RAN Back Row. Gazelle like, Nail Copeland rose majestically some 10 feet into the air to depose the RAN Full Back of the ball and galloped 20 metres to score. The crowd was clearly being won over by the ‘Barbarian' style of rugby and began voicing their enthusiastic support for the underdogs. Another score by the RAN just before half time put the score at 29 - 3 in their favour at the half time whistle. But any thoughts that this match was all but over were soon dispelled in the second half; a number of tactical changes were made to get everyone into the game. The coaching team certainly worked wonders with the half-time pep talk as the Select XV came out of the blocks like a wounded Wombat! New blood on the park, each man with a point to prove and a selector to impress, the ball was spun left, then right, secured, driven on, and then finally passed to Luke Dandoe who, with the bit between his teeth, crashed through 3 opposing tacklers to score wide out right. He then, much to the envy of all those ex-back row players, converted his own try from wide out! Stunned into action, the RAN reverted to their early game plan and began by driving the ball up the middle with the Centre crash ball being particularly effective. Although putting up an outstanding defensive effort, the Select XV were unable to cope with the incisive lines of running, which led to the RAN scoring 3 more tries, the majority of which masked a great defensive performance. More Select XV pressure nearly led to rich reward with Johnny Platt and Ben Mardle rampaging down the wings and coming from deep, but strong RAN defence prevented any more scoring opportunities. The select XV were beaten 44 -15 but this scoreline did not do justice to what has been a truly fantastic effort from a highly motivated team. Man of the match for RNRU Select - Luke Dando (Forward) and Josh Beavis (Back) . RAN Man of the match - Inside Centre Nick Stratford - presented by Admiral Sir Jonathon Band GCB, RNRU Immediate Past President. Commander Nick Stoker, RANRU Tour Leader said "An entertaining game of rugby with a pleasing result to the RAN touring side. Following our defeat to the RNZN, this win displays our resolve in restoring pride to our campaign. Full credit also goes to the RN Presidents XV whom had had little lead time to prepare, but turned on some great running rugby." RNRU President's Select XV v Royal New Zealand Navy With only 60% of the same squad mustering on Mon 12 Oct for the next match of the tournament, a wide range of new faces, each with something new to offer and prove, were soon put through their paces on the training pitch, coached by Mick Connolly and Glen Humphries. The weather conditions were perfect, with the forecast predicting dry warm weather - ideal for a good open game. Bolstered by a strong Fijian contingent, several ex-senior XV players and the wise old heads to steady the ship, the plan was to have a structured defence but an open and expansive game. The signs were promising and it was with more confidence, yet respect for the opposition, that the team took to the pitch at 1600 that afternoon. Again, it was a carbon copy of the first game with the team playing some great early rugby but being let down by silly mistakes. It was the Kiwi's bulk and power up front which led them to take an early lead with well worked tries from Marty Fourie and Sione Tonga. Again, to their enormous credit, the Select XV kept at the task with strong running and support play from both Forwards and Backs. The assumption that the Kiwi Pack would dominate the set piece soon proved unfounded as early as the first scrum, with Veteran Ewan Cowie and U23 Josh Terry giving Jay Gerraty the platform to steal the Kiwi ball on their put in. Kelly Wise and Roger Green supporting Chaz Channing and Tom March in the centres gave Taff Fuge and Sam Alafaki time and space to work their magic. Although scoreless in the first half, the signs were positive. Again, a number of changes made at half time had the desired effect and the crowd audibly gasped as it witnessed a veritable feast of open running rugby from the restart. First to score was Dennis Scothorne who was having a gem of a game at Second Row. Next to cross was Manoa Satala who used his experience and pedigree to leave the Kiwis chasing shadows. With the select XV rampaging around the pitch, the crowd sensed an upset and voiced their support. This gave the team huge encouragement and the players kept up a fantastic work rate for the next 10 minutes, but sadly with no points to reflect their dominance. With composed heads and a steely determination, the Kiwis soon regained the upper hand, with Timmy Te Hau scoring a classic prop's try from 3 yards out and Stevie Winikerei executing a well worked try from deep. However, the Select XV was far from finished! With the clock running down and more new blood on the pitch, Summo Thompson, Mongo Owen, Sam Mulane and Matt Thurston were making inroads into the Kiwi defence, allowing Daks Daku, Ben Mardle, Manoa and Sam to work their magic. Johnnie Plat made a great break up the middle allowing quick recycled ball to give Sam enough time to put in a high Garry Owen toward the posts. The crowd grew silent and, as if in slow motion, the ball fell groundward. With great athleticism, CS Veteran Rick Astley jumped some 15 feet into the air, grabbed the ball, twisted in mid-air and fell to earth to score the try - outstanding!! With Luke Dandoe converting the score with the last kick of the game, the team had given a fantastic account of themselves, with Commodore Rob Thompson, RNRU Chairman thanking them all for their immense hard work. Final score 33 - 21 to RNZN. Man of the match for RNRU - Josh Terry (Forward) and Manoa Satala (Back) RNZN Man of the Match - Luke Dando (RNRU) Without doubt, all the RNRU President's Select XV players deserve great credit and thanks, and to a man can feel hugely proud of what they achieved. RNRU President's Select XV Squad: LMA Alex Smith (HMS Torbay); SLt Ed Gaught (BRNC); CPO Ewan Cowie (RNAS Culdrose); Mne Josh Terry (45 Cdo RM); SLT Niall Copeland (HMS Collingwood); Mne Matt Thurston ( HMS Excellent); AB Kev McCrossin (HMS Ark Royal); AB Vinni Bainitabua (HMNB Devonport); WO2 Chris Richards (CTCRM); LS Sam Mulane (HMS Chatham); LS Taff Fuge (HMS Daring); PO Chaz Channing (c) (HMS Herron); AB Justin Bevis (HMS Liverpool); LPT Johnny Platt (HMS Raleigh); Mne Daks Daku (Cdo Logs Regt RM); Cpl Ben Mardle (UKLFCSG); LS Jay Gerraty (HMS Raleigh); Mne Dennis Scothorne (42 Cdo RM); PO Kai Blackett (HMS Collingwood); AB Aaron Benton (RNAS Culdrose); Mne James Spooner (Cdo Log Regt RM); ET(ME) Tom March (HMS Turbulent); AET Kelly Wise (RNAS Culdrose); PO Luke Dando (HMS Northumberland); Lt Roger Green (DES Abbeywood); SA Sam Alafaki (HMNB Devonport); SA Manoa Satala (HMS Nelson); Cpl Mark Owen (42 Cdo RM); PO Sumo Thompson (RNAS Yeovilton); Mne Matt Warwick (42 Cdo RM); CPO Rick Astley (HMS Raleigh); CPO Williams (HMS Tireless) (Fri only).