I believe it is 814 Naval AIr Squadron that go under the name, ‘the Flying Tigers’. Well yesterday at Yeovilton the second round of Navy Rugby’s Inter Command Competition, for the Inverdale Cup, was a little like watching a mother tiger raise her over exuberant cubs. For much of the match the Fleet Air Arm side were content to go through the motions and let the Corps have their fun. Regularly they gave the Royal Marines the ball and allowed them to attempt to breakdown their defencive wall. Time and time again the Corps tried but to be honest they never looked like breaching a solid and, when needed, effective Fleet Air Arm defence. Then, when they clearly felt the Corps were getting a little too boisterous the Naval Air side despatched as motherly cuffing to put the young cubs fully in the picture of who was boss. When they chose to play with a little intensity, directness and care they were simply too good for the Royal Marines and were able to score three simple tries. That they wasted double that number said everything about how comfortable they found the game.
The Royal Marines started the more brightly playing with a reasonably strong wind on their backs. On a number of occasions Naval Air transgressed at the breakdown but between them Glastonbury and Tichias missed four kicks at goal. Unfortunately without the pressure on the scoreboard it allowed NAC to ease in to the game and by the twenty minute mark they were beginning to monopolise possession.
It wasn’t long before they started to open up the Corps defence. First Stan Mortensen and then Olly James (my mana of the match) created openings which could have led to tries. In the first case Navy capped player Aaron Hunt missed a simple two on one and took contact before five minutes later Navy U23 and Navy Sharks player John Clay threw a forward pass when all Hunt had to do was fall over the line. The hat trick of misses was not long in coming when another excellent break from James should have resulted in a score for Saberton in the corner. However a communication breakdown led to a pass to touch and another chance wasted.
The missed opportunities were not to prove costly and spurning a penalty kick in front of the posts the Fleet Air chose to kick to the corner. Though they could not capitalise on their lineout they maintained field position and soon had a 7m attacking scrum which was driven over for Number 8 Joji Voyasala to score. Dave Pascoe missed the conversion.
Almost from the restart Naval Air were soon back on the attack. Some good inter play amongst the forwards saw Voyasala run a smart angle to latch on to a short pass. Breaking the first tackle he had a clear run to score under the posts. With Pascoe making the conversion the home side reached the break with a comfortable 12-0 lead.
The second half started as the first finished. The Naval Air pack was comfortably in charge and ensured that the pressure was maintained. It wasn’t long before they had an attacking lineout from which they set up the inevitable driving maul. Ben Priddey, playing open side, had control of the ball and was able to peel off for an easy try. Again Pascoe missed the conversion. NAC 17 – RM 0
With the game secured it seemed as if the home side then lost a little concentration and allowed the Corps to have some possession and territory. The Fleet Air’s error unforced error count continued to rise. Pascoe missed a relatively easy touch find before also dropping a couple of simple passes. Navy prop Kye Beasley was yellow carded for yet another [team] offence at the breakdown and both Priddey and his Navy front row colleague, Tom Blackburn, fell off a couple of tackles. However though this allowed the Royal Marines to have the ball deep in the Fleet Air Arm’s territory they still could not cross the goal line. As soon as they seemed to be building towards a try scoring opportunity Naval Air simply increased their ferocity at the tackle, won the turnover and cleared their lines. It cannot have been pleasant for the Corps side but the plain fact was that when it mattered the Naval Air Command pack bullied them in contact.
The second successive win puts the Naval Air Command side in pole position. For the Corps they need to have a long hard think about how they want to play the game. Their forwards need more physicality at the contact zone and their backs, who showed promise at times, need to work harder to give the ball carrier more options. With Plymouth Command bouncing back from lasts week’s defeat to Naval Air to score a comfortable 42-5 home win against their port rivals Portsmouth; a repeat of the usual FAA v RM final is not a foregone conclusion.
Naval Air Command: Kyle Mason *; Kye Beasley *; Tom Blackburn *; Stan Mortensen; John Lamsin; Homer; Ben Priddey *; Joji Voyasala; John Clay; Dave Pascoe *; Ifremia Kava; Olly James; Tom Wilkinson; Saberton; Aaron Hunt *;
Replacements: Ryan Cox; Tom Matanabu; Guy Pallett. Lowe; Campbell;
Royal Marines: Paddy Gorman; Joe Long; Joe Lyons; Dom Maton; Tom Cowley; Luke Redman, Tom Worboys; Tom Holliday, Guy Galstobury; Dave Coleman; Russ Sayer; Tichias; Will McLaren; Kyle Wood; Jon Marlin *;
Replacements: Sharpe; Clark; Morris; Taylor; Stevens; McDonald, Evans
* Navy Capped Player