Royal Navy Face Up To Cardinal Sins Before Malta Beckons
The Royal Navy know what to expect from the Esher Cardinals at Molesey Road on Wednesday night. The Surrey outfit have always played a fast, expansive game that tests the opposition and puts them under pressure. The Navy team will not only be looking to subdue the foe in front of them but also the one inside as they seek to exorcize the on-going discipline issues at the break down. A good performance will set them up for their warm weather training camp in Malta and then the challenge of Worcester at the end of the month.
Having used the three February games to give all the squad a chance, the month of March sees the tempo of the Royal Navy’s preparations step up as the opening Inter Services match against the Royal Air Force draws ever nearer. The selected side is a reflection of this with only two uncapped players making the starting XV, Richard Cadywould and Matt Bowden.
Cadywould started the Worthing match on the wing before coming on to his preferred position of fly half late in the game. His start against Esher Cardinals will give him the chance to show his capabilities at the start of a game where time on the ball is a little more rushed and defences that but tighter. With Nathan Huntley hoping to be on the bench if his bruised knee heals in time, and Josh Jones having an accomplished match last week he will be hoping to add to the selection problems at halfback
Richard leads a backline that has a good blend of pace and power. Matt Tichias and Sam Davies continue their impressive partnership at centre. Both are assured in defence and as their understanding grows they are beginning to gel more in attack and turn the half chances in to line breaks. Which should be welcomed by Matt Bowden and Greg Welling on the wing who can both find their their way to the try line given half a chance.
Jon Humphrey keeps his place at fullback. Against Worthing he looked sharp on the counter attack but without Cadywould in the back three will need to take on more kicking from hand. Esher utilise the kicking game well and are always quick to identify when the backfield defence are out of position or to run back poorly directed kicks sent in their direction.
As ever the backline’s ability to shine will be dependent on those up front. Tom Cowley breaks the Fleet Air Arm strangle hold in the front five as he again packs down with Marsh Cormack, behind the familiar front row of Kyle Mason, Ben Priddey and Kye Beasley. With Matt Harvey and Andrew Dennis in the backrow the Royal Navy will not lack for lineout options or ball carrying power where Chris Thompson looks to match the performances of Dave Fairbrother at Number 8.
However though the set piece work will be important, skipper Ben Priddey will also be looking for a much more disciplined performance, particularly at the tackle and over the ball where his work, and that of Les Dennis and Matt Harvey, needs to be far more precise that the Navy team has shown so far this season. If they can get this aspect right and give scrum half Johnny Stephen some tempo ball then Cadywould’s job of getting the Navy’s backline running suddenly becomes much easier.
With each match the Royal Navy play another building block is added as they plan for the three capped games that define their season; the first less than a month away. With the opportunity to refine their game plan, when away in Malta, it is important for the team to show that the understanding of their core processes is growing so that as the games become more intensive the side can meet the challenge, absorb the opposition’s best punches and still have the reserves to throw some offensive blows of their own. Whether that is Stephen’s darting jabs around the fringes of ruck and maul, the continuing pounding to the solar plexus of the strong running from Sumo Thompson, Marsh Cormack and Tom Cowley or the lightening upper cuts from Bowden and Welling working off their wings matters not. What is key is that the team challenge themselves first and foremost to produce the all-round performance they are capable of. If this is achieved then the match against the Cardinals will take care of itself, the team will depart for Malta in good spirits and the Navy faithful can prepare to give the Marine Nationale a raucous welcome when they arrive at Burnaby Road on the 1st April for ‘Le Crunch’.
Team: Kyle Mason *, Ben Priddey (Capt) *, Kye Beasley *, Tom Cowley *, Marsh Cormack *. Matt Harvey *, Setti Raumakita *, Chris Thompson *, Johnny Stephen *, Richard Cadywould, Matt Bowden, Matt Tichias *, Sam Davies * Greg Welling *, Jon Humphrey *
Replacements yet to be named
*- capped player
Esher Cardinals v Royal Navy, Wednesday 4th March, Molesey Rd, Esher, KO19:45
Article by Geraint Ashton Jones
Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones & © Keith Woodland