Royal Navy Rugby Part of Exciting Weekend of Anglo French Rugby
A weekend that saw four internationals played between England and France had Royal Navy Rugby involvement in three of them. After the pulsating encounter between England and France at Twickenham, the stadium then hosted the Women’s international. The game brought to a close Helen Richardson’s first Six Nations as England Women’s Team Manager. The HMS Sultan PTI could only look on as a young England side struggled to contain the powerful French pack early on and were always behind on the scoreboard. However a strong last quarter put the French under some serious pressure as they held on for a 21-15 win. The defeat left England in fourth place as they gradually look to re-build their squad following last year’s World Cup success.
Friday night had seen two Anglo French encounters which both involved referees from the Royal Navy Rugby Union Referees Society. Faslane based referee, Duncan McClement, didn’t have too far to travel for his game, when he refereed the Student’s international at West Park Leeds impressive ground. For Duncan it was another step up the refereeing ladder and again a match in which he acquitted himself well. It was clear from quite early on that the French side were a quality outfit full of the traditional French flair and creative running angles. Only their own unforced errors in the first half prevented them from reaching the break comfortably ahead. However despite being on the back foot for much of the match England Students remained in contention through a debut try by outside centre, Alex Wilcockson, (Duncan’s cousin!). Then with the game entering its last five minutes a penalty try awarded after a succession of scrums brought England to within 4 points. Despite a soft penalty from the restart allowing France to extend their lead to 7 points, England were still in with the chance of a draw. Playing their best rugby of the evening they brought the best out of the French defence and ensured Duncan was kept on his toes to the final whistle. A final score of 22-15 in favour of France Students was no less then their play had deserved. As with most student games it had been played in a positive manner; producing a fast, open and at times challenging match for Duncan to officiate. However he delivered another accomplished performance befitting of his status as the No1 Service referee. The remainder of the season will see him gain more experience in the Guinness Pro 12 whilst earlier in the year he made his European Challenge Cup debut as an Assistant Referee.
Further South, England U20s were hosting their French counterparts at Brighton’s Community Stadium. This game was a Six Nations championship decider and also a rugby ‘shake down’ for the stadium, which is due to host two World Cup matches later in the year. The on field match officials were provided by the Welsh Rugby Union with the RFU appointing Premiership Official, Roger Baileff, and Championship Official, Tim Bailey, as number 4 & 5; the first occasion that two Navy Referees have been appointed to an International match. Despite playing on the best surface they had encountered during the Six Nations tournament, England U20s struggled to get fluency into their game. However they were always in control and eased to a comfortable 24-11 victory that also saw them lift the Six Nations U20 trophy.
With Debbie Jevans, CEO of England Rugby 2015, expressing how pleased she was with the facilities and staging experienced at the Brighton ground it brings the Rugby World Cup another step closer. One of Brighton’s matches will be the Samoa v USA pool game on 20 September. With the USA team being hosted by the Royal Navy and using HMS Temeraire’s facilities there will be continued Naval interest in rugby being played at the Community Ground. Indeed both Roger and Tim remain in contention to return to the ground as part of Rugby World Cup 2015’s team of match officials.
Images Alligin Photography / © John Walton, © Tim Bailey, © Duncan McClement