Inter Services 2018 RN v RAF
By Keith Humpleby
The day’s second fixture proved to be a fiery affair as many of the Academy fixtures tend to be!
The headline though is despite being down to 12 men for most of the match and for ten minutes down to 11 the RN proved too good for the RAF recording a 36-14 victory to win the fixture for the first time in 4 years.
The first five minutes set the tone for the match, massive tackles going in all across the pitch which was always going to result in injuries and unfortunately for the RN loose forward Matt Bratton took a blow to the knee which ended his match prematurely. The two teams battled each other for a good 20 minutes with no score although the RN had the visitors pinned in their own half and perhaps should have scored but couldn’t make the final pass count. The match continued to be played full on with the possibility of it boiling over always there and on the 25 minute mark the almost inevitable happened. Ref Paul Greenwood and his TJ’s had to defuse a brawl on the RAF line involving most of the players, when the dust had settled he felt an infringement by RN skipper Connor Gilbey was sufficiently serious to justify a red card, not only that but a second RN player who tried to intervene from the sideline was also given the same punishment. So with 20 minutes gone the RN were down to 12 men on the pitch and only two left on the bench making victory seem a long way off. The match restarted and amazingly it was the RN who broke the deadlock, after keeping the RAF contained in their own half yet again Josh Tora forced his way over under the posts giving Alex Lewis a straight forward two pointer 6:0. The RAF kicked off into the breeze and setting sun and were left flat footed by Roko Kurusassa who took the ball in his own half and cut through the RAF defence to sprint 60mtrs to the line touching down under the sticks, Lewis knocking over the conversion to double the RN lead. The RN lead was stretched even further following more pressure on the RAF line who could not deal with the rampaging RN attack, Simon Tulakepa took advantage of great play from the base of the scrum to touchdown on the right once again Alex Lewis converted, 18-0. Despite being kept in their own half for much of the game the RAF did get on the scoreboard, Paul Forber taking the final ball out wide to outflank the stretched RN defence, the conversion wasn’t made so it remained 18-4. The RN restarted the game, and on the back of some great defence, regained the ball pressing for the score, influential vice Captain Marika Tuinabunawa barging over from the play the ball and with another straightforward conversion the home side were now 20 points to the good, that was it for the first 40, not a game to look away from!
The second half began quietly enough with few chances going as the RN defence remained resolute snuffing out anything the RAF could come up with but failing to score themselves and it was 20 minutes in before the score was troubled again. Finally the second half stalemate was broken, an attack down the RN right was switched across the face of the posts with John Clay launching a brilliant pas out to the left, winger Adam Baird took the ball well to cross for his first of the day, the difficult conversion was not made so it was 28-4 into the final quarter. Although well ahead on the scoreboard the sin-binning of Tuinabunawa made life difficult for the RN which the RAF exploited with a score of their own, Forber again going in out wide 28-8. This closing of the gap was only temporary though and the RN were soon back in RAF territory this time second row Rory Bonnick finished off some great play restoring the comfortable score line. A final spectacular try RN rounded off the home sides first victory over the RAF for some years, another promising attack got the RN within 20 mtrs of the line and was finished off by Adam Baird taking a hanging cross-field kick to touch down far out on the left. The RAF did cross for a consolation try under the posts which was converted to leave the final score 36-14. A great maiden IS victory for Coach Wata Robanakadavu and his team, Adam Scott and Craig Sutton but mainly a great result for the on field team who dealt with the loss of players throughout the game to record a convincing and impressive win. Despite an enforced 10 minutes rest the Officials nominated the influential Marika Tuinabunawa as the man of the match who was presented with his award by Cat Henshaw representing RNRL Charity partners the Royal British Legion.
RN: Ed Holland, Adam Baird, Nathan Neal, Roko Kurusassa, Simon Tulakepa, Alex Lewis, John Clay, Connor Gilbey (C), Marika Tuinabunawa (Vc), Lewis Byrnand, Rory Bonnick, Tom Howard, Matt Bratton
Replacements: Dan Oner, Josh Tora, Chris Rees-Lloyd, Luke Warrington
RAF: Scott Winnell, Rory Hay, Paul Forber, Carl Cassar, Kieran Walker, Robert Booth, Zach Morris, Josh Williams, Jack Edwards, Simon Pilkington, James Norrish, Aaron Harrison, Daniel Spencer, James Jones, Jake Ball, Wayne Cooper, Steve Southwell