Testing Debut for New CapsVery often when reading that a player has come off the bench in the last minute of a game, the reader is entitled to view it as a sentimental substitution. Well that is not always the true reading of the situation. On Thu Navy Rugby gave debuts, and first caps, to Lt Nial Copeland RN (HMS Collingwood) and Capt Tom Evans-Jones RM (LWC Warminster) in the 4th min of stoppage time. However, it was far from an easy debut for either of them. With the score at 17-10 in the Royal Navy's favour but with only 6 forwards on the field the Navy had to defend a scrum on their goal line. Despite the Navy having had much of the play they had been unable to shake off a tenacious Marine Nationale side that finished the game strongly as the Navy Team was reduced to 13 men following 2 yellow cards. A try and a conversion would square the match and they would get to keep the trophy as holders. However, with Navy fullback POET (WE) Dane Smallbone (HMS Collingwood) and wing SLt Andy Vance RN (BRNC) making way probably for the first time in their playing careers for a hooker and a lock, the Navy scrum held firm, the ball secure and cleared and the victory secured.
Earlier in the evening ET(WE)(SM) Ian Cooper (HMS Ambush) had been the first Navy player to be capped against a side other than the RAF or Army and he was joined in the Navy's 'Silver Tie' club by U23 team mate MA Sam Laird (HMS Collingwood) when they swapped places in the 2nd half. It continued a very swift progression for Sam who is only recently out of part three training and has consistently impressed for HMS Collingwood, Portsmouth Command, the U23's and now the Senior XV.
With the 4 new caps there are now 685 players who have been capped for wearing the famous Navy shirt. Again the ongoing development programmes continue to produce players with the potential to perform at the highest level of service rugby. Both Coopz and Sam were part of the successful U23 team earlier this season and were joined by Will Cairns and Dale Sleeman (HMS Cumberland) as a quartet of U23's in the Senior side. With fellow U23's NA Aaron Hunt (RNAS Yeovilton), AET Jon Humphrey (848 NAS, RNAS Yeovilton). Mne's Seti Raumakita and Dennis Scotthorne (both 42 Cdo RM) all impressing during the cup match in Cork, former Navy U23 Head Coach, CPO Clayton Patilla (HMS Nelson) can rightly reflect on a job well done.
New cap Nial Copeland was also a product of the U23 system before being part of Dave Sibson's finishing school on the 'Mighty Sausage, HMS Cumberland. The 4th new cap, TEJ, finally received his first cap after spending the last couple of years challenging fellow Navy hookers NA Ben Priddey (RNAS Culdrose) and Cpl Gaz Evans (539 ASRM) to produce their best rugby. Throughout that time he has been supported by the Royal Marines strong command rugby set up.
The Navy's Senior XV attention now firmly turns to the retention of their Inter Service title. First up will be the RAF at Newbury on 13 Apr. It is already obvious that the RAF have put their struggles of last year behind them. Their results against Oxford University, Cambridge University and the Irish Defence Force have been very similar to the Navy's. With home advantage, it promises to be the closest result for many a year, with the RAF looking to repeat their victory of 2005. The Navy team will be selected and announced later this week and will be posted on this site by Thu.