This was the 11th meeting of the two sides, the first being in 2002 at London Welsh. The overall series stood at seven victories to three in the Royal Navy’s favour, with the home side being the current holders of the trophy after a win in Cork last season, writes Maj Steve Melbourne RM.
Results aside, this encounter has been notable for the closeness and competitiveness of the games. Every game played has gone to the wire; last year was no exception and could easily have been won by either team, with the margin of victory being just seven points.
The RNRU is currently building its senior squad as a result of higher than normal changeover of players due to operational commitments, retirements and redundancies. However, the new management team is keen to quickly bring together a squad from across the full spectrum of the Navy life.
This match against the IDF undoubtedly provided a good opportunity for aspiring players to make their mark and stake their claim to wear the coveted Navy shirt in this year’s Inter Services.
The game started with both teams testing each other’s defence, the IDF close in and the Navy continuing as they had done against Cambridge University playing a wide expansive game.
It didn’t take long before the Navy caught the IDF ‘napping’ and right wing S/Lt A Vance (Yeovilton) ran 60m to score the first try of the game with captain POAET Dave Pascoe (Culdrose) converting the try, 7-0.
A score so early in the game ‘rousted’ the IDF and they continually pressurised the Navy line only to be thwarted by handling errors which were caused by an aggressive RN defence and good set piece play from lineout specialist POAET M Cormack (Yeovilton) and a back row of Mne B Fox (45 Cdo), MA S Laird (Collingwood), ET (WE) I Cooper (Ambush) who all made the life of the IDF back row difficult.
As the clock ticked to 25 minutes the Navy constructed a good move that provided AET Davis – a late replacement for Navy centre Dale Sleeman – a gap which he exploited to perfection.
This pulled the IDF defence to the right and with the overlap on the left, the RN switched the attack to allow AB D Bamford (Dragon) to score a well-worked converted try 14-0.
Pascoe added to the total a few minutes later as the IDF were penalised for an infringement at the breakdown for 17-0.
If anyone left early to get a place at the US Portsmouth clubhouse bar then they missed a great try.
This provided proof of the hard work the coaches and squad had put in as both backs and forwards worked together; excellent off-loads in the tackle and support play that gave NA(AH) J Quarnivalu (Culdrose) his first converted try of the evening 24-0.
From the restart the Navy made clear its intentions to keep the pressure on the IDF to keep them out of the game, as history of this fixture had seen the IDF always come back hard when behind.
The Navy pushed the IDF back into their own five-metre line and gained a lineout.
From this the forwards showed great patience which paid off to give hooker Lt D Smith (Vanguard) another late replacement for Ben Priddey his first try 31-0.
From the restart, the Irish again pressured the Navy line and eventually gained a penalty 31-3.
From the restart, fly half Mne N Huntley (40 Cdo) lofted his kick off which allowed Cormack to claim the ball and set up another phase of play which the IDF illegally disrupted.
This was a kickable penalty, but the Navy selected to kick to the corner for a lineout on the IDF five-metre line.
The catch and drive from the lineout was dropped by the IDF for another Navy penalty. The ball ended up in the safe hands of man-of-the-match Quarnivalu for his second try.
The restart did not go well for the IDF as Worcester Warriors winger Josh Drauniniu (HMNB Portsmouth) eventually did what he had threatened to do all game and got on the score sheet for 41-3.
The IDF continued to drive close to the break-down in an attempt to drag in the Navy players to make some space for their back line.
This tactic did have an effect in a way, as after several warnings the referee yellow carded the Navy.
This didn’t stop the 14 men of the Senior Service as they raised their game and good work between the forwards and backs that gave Vance his second try for 48-3.
The final action of the game saw the IDF attack make some good ground with their close-to-the-breakdown driving game and then spinning the ball wide to free the back line.
However, a floated pass was intercepted by the ever-present Drauniniu who had a free run to the line, conversion by AET J Humphrey (Yeovilton) for a final score of 55-3 to the Royal Navy, giving it an 8-3 lead in the series.
This game now sets the Navy up for a trip to Bath on April 3 before travelling to Toulon to face the Marine Nationale the following week.