Royal Navy v Royal New Zealand Navy CNRC 2014
Match report: RN v RNZN – Fri 26 Sep 14; Ngataringa Sports Complex, HMNZS PHILOMEL
Friday dawned a gorgeous spring day here in Auckland: mild, sunny intervals, with a gentle Westerly breeze.
At 1450, the two teams marched, stern-faced with intent, onto the pitch which was in near-perfect condition, having recovered well from last week’s rain and matches. National anthems were played and the RNZN team then performed their traditional Haka with the RN players standing respectfully on their own 10 metre line.
The RN kicked off the half with the wind mostly across the pitch but also slightly in the RN faces. Almost immediately, with RNZN in possession, the RN conceded a penalty for offside. RNZN ran the penalty and started to go through phases of possession until a dropped ball allowed the RN to clear into touch. The RN was awarded a penalty from the lineout and Marine Nathan Huntley kicked for touch into the RNZN half. The RN secured their own ball and took their turn to run through the phases (in spite of a mistaken “pass” to the referee at one point!) before Lt Matt Bowden found himself with space down the left hand wing and scorched over the line for the first score of the game, after 7 minutes. Marine Richard Cadywould missed the difficult conversion. 5-0 and first blood for the RN.
Following the restart, there was a period of scrappy play, albeit captivating in its intensity. RNZN dominated possession and a lineout in the RN half resulted in a penalty kick at goal for RNZN. It was successfully kicked from the right-hand side: 5-3 after 12 minutes.
The next 15 minutes took on a most uncomfortable pattern for RN supporters. RNZN were awarded a total of 7 penalties in that period (the RN received one) with the referee repeatedly blowing-up for offside. But these were not the only occasions for him to stop the game: not taking the penalty from the correct place; not retreating 10 metres; there was just no momentum for either side. And, worse, RNZN kicked penalty goals on 20 minutes and 26 minutes, as they eased into a 5-9 lead midway through the half.
As half-time approached, a couple of scrums indicated growing RN dominance in the set-piece, with RNZN scrum-half and No 8 doing extraordinarily well to retain possession from scrums that had wheeled nearly 270 degrees…. (yes, truly.) Eventually, on 31 minutes, the RN was awarded another penalty, allowing Cadywould to kick successfully for goal. RN just a single point behind at 8-9.
However, the joy for RN supporters was short-lived as, despite some good possession (most notably from POAET Marsh Cormack at the lineout) the RN found themselves, yet again, on the wrong end of the whistle and conceded another kickable penalty. And, in spite of the difficult cross-wind, the RNZN kicker was spot-on again: 8-12. (To be fair, had RNZN been allowed to play their advantage, they had 2-v-1 down their left and would have been expected to score.)
The final 4 minutes of the half was again scrappy and repeatedly interrupted by the whistle with a further 3 penalties to RNZN before the half finally ended.
At the half-time break, the message to the RN players must surely have been to play to the referee; at 13-3 in favour of RNZN, the penalty count was killing the RN hopes of playing their own game of rugby. Tactical changes included: LPT Johnny Stephen for CPOAET Dave Pascoe; Mne Seti Raumakita for Mne Taylor; Lt Tom Blackburn for Mne Mark Owen; LET(WE) Ian Cooper for CPOAET Thompson.
RNZN started the second half and, after exchanging kicks, the RN was awarded a penalty that was kicked by Cadywould and the RN had closed the gap to a single point again: 11-12. The RN now dominated the next few minutes of play, including a massive shunt at a RNZN scrum that resulted in a penalty to the RN. (Perhaps the tide was turning?) It was taken quickly, and several phases of possession saw the RN forwards (and who really knows who was at the bottom of the pile?) driving over for a try, converted by Cadywould: 18-12 in favour of the RN.
From the kick, the RN gave away a scrum. Again, it wheeled nearly 270 degrees (yes, truly…) RNZN picked up and scampered over the line for a try that stunned the watching RN players and supporters alike. The conversion however, was of indisputable quality: 18-19 for RNZN after 51 minutes.
More dominance from the RN saw them march purposefully up-field, forcing RNZN to kick for touch. From the lineout, just outside the RNZN 22, Cormack again secured quality possession, and the forwards drove forward, being held-up over the try-line for a 5-metre scrum. There was to be no mistake here, with the clock on 56 minutes, and the RN forwards secured their own ball and drove over the Kiwi line for a fine score, converted by Cadywould: 25-19.
Then, with the game apparently in the control of the RN, there followed a few moments of careless mistakes that allowed RNZN some possession and field position: knocks-on; penalty for crossing; missed tackles. Each allowed RNZN belief in their cause to renew….
First, RNZN missed a difficult penalty kick on 61 minutes, but then, on 66 minutes, a missed tackle in centre-field allowed the strong running RNZN forwards to score under the posts. With the easy conversion kicked, the score after 66 minutes was 25-26 in favour of the Kiwis.
10 anxious minutes passed as the game ebbed and flowed, interrupted only by the whistle. Penalty for RNZN: offside. Penalty for RNZN: crossing. Free-kick for RN: lineout offence. Penalty for RN: man taken in the air. Another penalty goal for Cadywould on 78 minutes and the score was now 28-26 for the RN. This was becoming unbearably tense. But the RN scrum was, once again, dominant in the set-piece, driving the RNZN off the ball and being awarded a penalty on 79 minutes. SHOCK, HORROR, the referee reversed it to give the Kiwis a kick at goal – missed just left – score still 28-26. Phew!
The clock counting down now, RNZN attacked down the left and were awarded another penalty on the RN 22. Quickly taken, the scrum-half was obstructed inside 10 metres and…. PENALTY TRY to RNZN. Disbelief… on the pitch….in the crowd. Converted easily: 28-33 for RNZN with the clock showing 80 minutes.
Could the RN recover? Was there time? Surely not….
But the game re-started and the RN won a line-out on the RNZN 22. Cpl Dave Fairbrother, impressive in all aspects of the game, jumped to catch and the RN drove forwards, moving the ball in phases to the right and then back to the left until…. Knock-on… and the final whistle blew. DEVASTATION. RNZN 33 – RN 28. Only the second-ever RN defeat in the Commonwealth Navies Rugby Cup’s history.
Hats-off to the Kiwis for a courageous and aggressive victory. For the RN, short of an unlikely win for the Aussies over RNZN on Tuesday, we shall have to hand-over the CNRC Trophy. But there is still much to play for against the USMC on Tuesday 30 September. We shall recover and re-group after this disappointing defeat.
- AET Kye Beasley, RNAS CULDROSE
- AB Mark Jones, HMS ILLUSTRIOUS
- Mne Mark Owen, Command Logistics Regiment
- Musician Ed Pascoe, Royal Marines Band Portsmouth
- POAET Marsh Cormack, RNAS CULDROSE
- Cpl Dave Fairbrother, 45 Cdo
- Mne Dom Taylor, 42 Cdo
- CPOAET Chris Thompson, HMS SULTAN
- CPOAET Dave Pascoe, RNAS CULDROSE
- Mne Nathan Huntley, 30 Cdo
- Lt Matt Bowden, HMS SOMERSET
- AB Tom Davies, HMS ILLUSTRIOUS
- AB Sam Davies, HMS OCEAN
- Mne Richard Cadywould, CTCRM
- AET Jon Humphrey, 845 Naval Air Squadron
- Lt Ed Gaught, Navy Command HQthe
- Lt Tom Blackburn, HMS SULTAN
- ET(ME) Jack Basher, HMS LANCASTER
- Mne Seti Raumakita, 30 Cdo
- LPT Johnny Stephen, BRNC
- AB Sam Benzie, HMS AMBUSH
- LET(WE) Ian Cooper, HMS RALEIGH
- Cpl Tom Cowley, 42 Cdo
Match report written by Commander John Cunningham RN
Images © Royal Navy Rugby Union
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