A night and a morning of heavy rain had left it’s mark on HMS Sultan’s training field. It was fair to say the pitch took a full stud and for the Navy U23’s training under the sodium glow of the training lights it was a chance to fine tune their preparations with the assistance of the Senior XV head coach.
Watching the squad training it was clear how far they have travelled as a group since their first outing at Chichester. What is more they are a young squad with twenty of the twenty six being available next season (by age if not necessarily by deployment).
Within the group two have won before at Aldershot, only 22 have ever done it in the history of Navy Rugby. Whether this group quite have the experience yet to emulate Tom and Josh’s achievement in 2010 I’m not sure. However what is quite clear is that there is a real focus and determination to carry on their rapid improvement and give it their best shot. Nothing more can ever be asked in sport.
What is also pleasing to report is the progress of all the squad members and not just those who started the match last week or indeed will start on Friday night. Newly converted prop Robbie Fowler has clearly impressed the coaching staff and will undoubtedly be pushing for a starting berth next season. He made a good impact in the latter stages in the win over the Royal Air Force and has no doubt kept both Chris Davies and Josh Terry on their toes.
Another who is impressing the coaching team is young Sam Tyrer. It is a good sign when you can look balanced and light on your feet in the quagmire that was the training pitch, but Sam was certainly achieving that as well as running some great angles. With skipper Tom Davies being too old next season, his chance will come.
However one of the youngest of the squad has already made his mark. In more ways than one.
If at first you don’t succeed…………….
Navy U23 Number 8, John Henty, has something about him – on and off the field. Those who watched either the Cambridge University match or the RAF match will not have failed to have noticed him. His six foot four frame and ginger hair make him stand out. As did his try in each match. However his Navy Rugby career nearly stopped before it started as he left the first weekend training camp early. Probably not to return. Fortunately for both John and Navy Rugby followers, team manager Taff Wilcock was prepared to entertain the thought that may be there had been some crossed wires and to spend some time with John to find out what was what. With John realising that his first impressions, on this occasion, were not the right impressions he quickly integrated into the squad and knuckled down to the task of being a Navy Rugby player. The lad has talent. I asked him if he knew who Bob Armstrong was? An unfair question for a nineteen year old. He promised to find out. He has some of the skills in him that the young Bob showed. Only time will tell but Taff’s chat and John’s return may in years to come be one of the most fortuitous regains that Navy Rugby has seen for many a year.
The final match for the Royal Navy U23s is at Aldershot on Friday 23 November. KO 19:30 against the Championship holders the British Army U23s.
A Successful Season?
The simple answer is yes, whatever the result on Friday. As ever with the U23s a season of considerable disruption. But leadership has been developed and talent identified. A young team with some unpolished gems in its midst. A few that are well worth keeping an eye on as they will soon be pushing for higher honours.