Royal Navy versus Light Blues
A clear, dry evening saw Varsity winners Cambridge University, host the Royal Navy Senior XV at their Grange Road ground. The light blues fielded arguably their strongest squad this season, with their starting line up including 10 Blues and 1 International.
A small but enthusiastic home crowd witnessed a flowing game with the students determined to play at a fast pace. They attacked the breakdown with vigour, offloaded well in contact and exploited the width of the pitch to good effect. Declaring their intent from the whistle, an early marker was laid by wing Rob Stevens who scored after only 2 minutes of play to take the home team into a 5 point lead.
The RN maintained a resolute defence, tackling hard and working from a solid scrum to put the students' pack under pressure. Such sterling defence denied the students an almost certain try in the 12th minute. After a number of opportunities, and showing great skill at kicking from deep, Cambridge dominated possession and was soon adding more points with a try by centre Fred Burden (St John's). The two sides traded kicks and the game flowed from one end to the other, but eventually a penalty to Cambridge set them up for a lineout on the Navy's 22. An attacking line, which brought in full back James Greenwood (Hughes Hall) at pace, opened up a gap for wing Stevens to add his second try of the evening. Just before half time, a driving maul from a lineout on the Navy's 5 metre line presented Cambridge number 8, Ben Maidment (St Edmund's), with a straightforward opportunity to cross over for 5 points. The score at half time stood at Cambridge 20 - Royal Navy 0.
The second half started with a number of changes that saw players take to the field from both benches. The Navy team took some time to settle into its stride, but was then able to develop momentum and mount some outstanding defence against a determined and confident opposition. Another catch and drive over the Navy line put the students further ahead after 64 minutes, scored by prop Tom Harris (Churchill) and converted by replacement Ross Broadfoot: this was to be the only points scored by the home team in the second half. Cambridge 27 - RN 0.
Always looking to take opportunities and run the ball from deep, Cambridge applied relentless pressure but good defensive play by the Navy, combined with strong scrummaging, turned the pressure back onto the students. An attack started by back row Marine "Eggy" Egglestone (45 Commando RM) resulted in flanker and skipper Corporal Greg Barden (RM Poole) breaking through the Cambridge line with a blistering run, eventually putting full back Marine Rob Lloyd (42 Commando RM) clear to run in for a Navy try. The successful conversion was by PO Dave Pascoe (RNAS Culdrose). The final 10 minutes of the match saw a resurgent Navy side launch penetrating attacks, keeping the ball in hand and testing the Cambridge defence right up to the final whistle. Final score Cambridge 27 - RN 7.
This was another encouraging performance by the Royal Navy, building on the match against Oxford University 2 weeks earlier, and giving more players the chance to compete for their place in the squad.
The next match is against the Irish Defence Forces on Friday 26 February at United Services Sports Ground, Burnaby Road, Portsmouth. Please note the kick off time is 7.30pm. Entry is free and the match promises to be an entertaining and challenging start to the Six Nations weekend.
Royal Navy: Mne R Lloyd (42 Cdo RM), LAET A Vance (HMS Nelson), Mne S Llewellyn (Cdo Logs Regt), ET(ME) D Sleaman (HMS Cumberland), ET(ME) Jon Marlin (HMS Sultan), Capt T Glover RM (CTCRM), Mne J Stephens (CTCRM), Mne M Owen (42 Cdo RM), PO(AH) A Laity (RNAS Culdrose), AB(WS) M Roberts (HMS Bulwark), LAET M Cormack (HMS Sultan), Capt S McClaren RM (RMR Bristol), SLt N Copeland (MWS Collingwood), Cpl G Barden (RM Poole) (C), AB(Sea) W Cairns (HMS Nelson).
Reps: SLt D Smith RN (HMS Sultan), NA(AH) B Priddey (RNAS Culdrose),O/C T Blackburn (BRNC/HMS Ark Royal), AET G Jones (RNAS Yeovilton), Mne M Egglestone (45 Cdo RM), POAET D Pascoe (RNAS Culdrose), LS John Keiller (MWS Collingwood).