The Royal Navy took on the Royal New Zealand Navy in what was to be a clash between two sides determined to play an exciting brand of rugby and both having their sights set on winning the 2009 Babcock Commonwealth Cup. The Kiwis had begun their campaign in fine style with a convincing win on Tuesday over the Royal Australian Navy 45 points to 12. The scene was thus set for a confrontation with the current holders, the Royal Navy, at Plymouth Albion’s ground on Friday. The wet and blustery conditions did not deter the vocal and enthusiastic crowd of over 2,000 who witnessed a battle unfold between two evenly matched sides. The Kiwis, clearly buoyed by their victory over traditional rivals Australia, looked determined to win the trophy for the first time. The traditional “Haka” laid down their challenge to the defending champions, the Royal Navy, but the sailors and marines they faced were to give them no quarter in an enthralling 80 minutes of end-to-end rugby in the swirling wind and rain of a Devon evening. The opening salvos of the match resulted in a score for both captains. Early pressure by the Kiwis resulted in a number of breaks by their back line, but these were met by some very aggressive tackling and counter-rucking by the Royal Navy. However, a penalty in the 6th minute gave the men in black an opportunity to put down an early marker – no mistakes, with their Captain Hone Taurua driving over the line to give them a 5 point lead. A period of forward dominated play followed with the RN pack scrummaging well and gaining a valuable penalty on the halfway line. The referee added another 10 metres for dissention, which put the posts within easy reach for the boot of the RN captain, Dave Pascoe. Score after 10 minutes RN 3 RNZN 5. The determination of both sides was clear; they competed for every ball, with the game played at a fast pace despite the wet conditions. Some clever kicking for position and fiercely contested breakdowns meant that neither side was short of opportunities. After 20 minutes another penalty to the RN, taken by Dave Pascoe, just fell short of the uprights – score remained at 3 – 5. Handling in the ruck by NZ was penalised by the referee and gave Dave Pascoe an opportunity inside the NZ 22 – another unlucky strike just glanced off the right hand upright. The pace of play did not ease; outstanding tackling and defensive work from the Kiwis countered strong running and good handling by the RN. The NZ number 8 Damien Gibbs, who proved his strength and ability against the Australians, loomed large as an ever-present threat and only some good defence and strong covering tackles was able to keep the Kiwi attacks at bay. After 38 minutes of play a penalty to the RN was converted by Dave Pascoe to put them ahead 6 –5 at the half time whistle. The Kiwis started the second half driving forward and showing their grit and determination, scoring first after 5 minutes, through back row forward Mattie Jeffries who crossed the line to put them ahead by 10 points to 6. Devastating runs by No 8 Gareth Evans, and Centre Silivenusi Buinimasi made the Kiwis work hard in midfield. Such pressure from the RN was met by some very hard hits by the Kiwis who showed that they still had victory in their sights and would not give up easily. Tactical substitutions by the RN reinvigorated their attacking play but it was some time before this was converted into points. After 56 minutes, a penalty by Dave Pascoe brought the RN within one point of the Kiwis: 9 –10. In the final quarter, a well worked attack that kept the ball in hand was rewarded when the Royal Navy full back, Rob Lloyd, came into the attack and scored the RN’s only try, which he converted to take them ahead 16 –10. This was to be the final score of the match. Royal Navy Director of Rugby, Lieutenant Commander Geraint Ashton Jones, was pleased with his team’s performance, “I am very pleased and very proud of the lads – to a man they stood up for what the shirt should mean to everyone in the RN” he said. He paid tribute to the younger players and recognised the key leadership role of those with more experience. “I was particularly pleased with the result, given the difficult conditions” he said, “the team stayed true to our belief of playing good expansive rugby – and enjoying it!”. Asked about the forthcoming match against the Australians, Geraint was quick to dismiss any hint of complacency: “We look forward to the match on Monday against the Australians, but I will not be complacent or take anything for granted. They will prove to be a stern test for us, with everything to gain and nothing to lose – always a dangerous combination to face”. The Royal Navy takes on the Royal Australian Navy on Monday evening at Plymouth Albion RFC, kick off at 7.15pm. This match will be the decider for the overall winners of the Babcock Commonwealth Cup 2009. Scores: RN: 16 Tries – 1 (Rob Lloyd) Conv - 1 (Rob Lloyd) Penalties – 3 (Dave Pascoe) RNZN: 10 Tries – 2 (Hone Taurua; Mattie Jeffries)