Royal Navy U23s v Cambridge University LX XV
This weekend saw the Royal Navy U23s complete the double against the Universities with a fixture against a Cambridge University LX team at Burnaby Road. With the side again skippered by AB (Tom) Davies (HMS Illustrious), the starting XV contained several changes from the side defeated the previous week by an Oxford University U21 XV, and included debuts on the wing for Mne Andrews (43 Cdo (FPGRM)) and at hooker for Cpl (Mark) Sharp (CTCRM).
With sunny conditions and a good playing surface underfoot, the U23s made an enthusiastic start and took the match to the students. With Cambridge having been awarded an early penalty, further Navy indiscipline within minutes soon presented the students an opportunity to kick for the corner and exert pressure on the Navy line. This pressure soon told, and with only 13 minutes on the clock the Navy openside flanker was sent to the sin bin for transgressing at the ruck. With pressure firmly now on the depleted Navy side, Cambridge were soon awarded a penalty and feeling optimistic about scrummaging against a 7 man pack opted for the scrum, but the Navy pack held firm and resolute.
Cambridge soon found their way through the reduced Navy ranks to the try line and in the process took the lead 0 - 5. Cambridge were soon found to have hands in the ruck, and although Navy Fly-half Lewis (HMS Vigilant) missed the first penalty, he hit the mark with a second quickly thereafter, awarded following some good rucking from the Navy pack. With the scoreline now 3-5, with points on the board and in a buoyant frame of mind, the Navy eight produced some direct and supportive forward play and were soon rewarded when No8 ET (WE) (Jon) Henty (HMS Collingwood) crashed over, with the conversion again by Lewis. With the score now 10-5, the Navy upped their workrate and played simple, committed, direct rugby which kept the pressure on their light blue opponents, allowing Lewis the opportunity to score another penalty. With the RN now in the lead 13-5, frustration at the intensity of the Navy play by Cambridge soon led to their centre being sin binned shortly before half time, but with the Navy unable to capitalise on his absence the Half Time score remained unchanged at 13-5.
Leading into the second half, the Navy eight took the game to their opponents and after only 4 minutes on the clock, strong scrummaging resulted in that rare beast in the modern game of a "strike against the head". With Cambridge nonetheless remaining determined to cross the Navy line, strong defensive work resulted in their winger being stopped dead in his tracks from scoring what looked like a certain try. The pressure soon told however, with good interplay between forwards and backs from a penalty resulted in a try for Cambridge, which unconverted took the score to 13-10.
Further Navy pressure soon paid dividends with a successful Navy penalty by AET (Matt) Horton (HMS Sultan), who having taken over both Flyhalf and kicking duties from the injured Lewis extended the lead to 16 - 10 for the Senior Service. Cambridge bounced back quickly and staying alive to any opportunity, charged down a sluggish Navy clearance and with the try remaining unconverted, the score was now a close 16-15 with all to play for. The final quarter of the game saw a flurry of attack and counterattack, with Cambridge taking advantage of the sin binning of another Navy player for a late tackle by scoring a converted try, 16-22. Maintaining this tempo, the Light Blues centre showed agility and speed in leaving the Navy defence flat footed to quickly cross over their line. Subsequently conversion of the try saw the Navy trailing by 16 - 27. Showing determination to the end, Navy prop AET (Kai) Beasley (RNAS Culdrose) soon drove over the Cambridge line and with the conversion wide of the posts, the final whistle sounded with the scoreline at 21-27.
Despite the scoreline, this game demonstrated the U23s are on the right direction of travel with strong scrummaging, good support play and the intensity of their play in the 2nd quarter all promising areas to build upon.
Head Coach Capt Scott Ashley RM (NCHQ) said "This was a far better performance from the squad, we started strongly and kept Cambridge under pressure for large periods of the game. We will continue to build on today's performance and take into our next game against the RAF".
The Squad now turn their attention to final preparations for the Inter-Services, which starts in earnest against the RAF Academy at Burnaby Road on Fri 16 Nov. A preview of the match will be posted on the website in the build up to the game, and you can follow the progress of the squad here on the website and on our Twitter feed Twitter@RNrugby