RNRL v BARLA Cougars U-23
RN Head Coach Danny Johnson had set up this match to maintain the season’s momentum gained during the Challenge Cup campaign by taking on a GB rep side that always provide the sternest of tests for Service sides. The BARLA squad also saw this as more than a ‘friendly as they are due to leave for a three match tour to Jamaica in early June. BARLA management saw this as a great opportunity to generate some squad bonding away from the distractions of home as well as get some valuable game time in ahead of the trip to the Caribbean.
Whilst the BARLA squad was almost at full strength a combination of injuries and operational duties once again forced Johnson into re-jigging his squad as well as bringing up several Academy players to the first team. As a result only 9 of the team that faced Hunslet Hawks were available for this one but to their credit every player stood up to the task and had it not been for a series of injuries the game would have been very much in the balance. Despite only having 17 players at his disposal Coach Johnson generously allowed BARLA to use their full 19 man squad which probably contributed to their victory especially in the later stages of the match.
Despite being the wettest drought for many years and serious ground improvements taking place the Temeraire pitch stood up well making for a good open contest. Inevitably with so many new faces and limited squad preparation time RNRL did not make the best of starts and were behind after barely 5 minutes, BARLA full back Chris Warren joining the line at a great angle to touch down, Danny Lynch converting, 0-6. Despite recovering from this early set back RNRL were still finding it difficult to make ground against a tough BARLA defence but defended well for a further 10 minutes or so before BARLA’s influential skipper Davey Jones crossed for his side this time Lynch was wide with the kick. The Brothers were getting more into the match as they began to stifle more of the BARLA offence and put pressure on their defence unfortunately once such foray into BARLA territory saw the ball spilled and Centre Ridsdill pounced on the loose ball to sprint 40 metres to touch down, this time the conversion was good so it was 0-16 to the visitors. Another RNRL attack broke down after an interception and skipper Jones set off on his way for an 80 metre sprint to the line, unfortunately for the visitors an offside had been spotted by the touch judge and the try was chalked off. The RN were now up to the pace of the game and were putting together some good phases of play and were rewarded five minutes before the break when giant prop Matt Corrigan broke through the midfield cover and made 25 metres towards the line before the desperate defence caught up with him but as he was tackled he managed to slip the ball infield to Kev Botwood who was on his shoulder in support and went over under the post for the try. Wayne John in his last match in a Brothers shirt slotted home the conversion and the RN were on the board. Referee Dave Moss blew for half time just as the rain came down with the score 6-16 a fair reflection of the first half. Whilst still in the game RNRL were struggling with injuries especially in the pack, Craig Sutton ever present this season at second row took a bad blow to his ankle which ruled him out for the rest of the match after another good performance, added to that both props Savage and Corrigan were feeling the effects of a testing first half. Notwithstanding that the Brothers came out best initially in the second half but again some good work on the flanks by BARLA had the RN cover broken and Scott Morrow crossed out wide to increase the visitors lead, despite the conversion being missed, to 20-6. Despite this latest setback Mark Robinson spurred on his charges to get back at the opposition and his men responded, the Brothers had tried their luck down the BARLA left for a while but this time it came off. A good passage of passes out to the wing got the Brothers in sight of the line and the final pass to ‘B’ Buinimasi was spot on and allowed the Fijian centre to crash over by the corner flag. A great touchline conversion by Wayne John brought the Brothers within 8 and showed there was still a lot of fight left in the RN team. Back came BARLA though and another foray out wide saw them regain a 12 point lead winger Conroy crossing for the score. The Brothers responded yet again and another move on the BARLA right put the defence on the back foot and Steve Lockton put through a neat grubber causing panic in the BARLA defence, once again Buinimasi took advantage, gathering the ball he crossed for his second of the match. Unfortunately Wayne John’s conversion attempt caught a gust of wind and went wide so it was 24-16. BARLA skipper had now returned to the fray and he was instrumental in setting up the next BARL try slipping the ball to Adam Masson who scored in the corner to make it 28-16 to the Cougars, Clayton Sutton’s conversion attempt falling short. By now the RNRL side were struggling with injuries across the field but the players on the field managed to restrict the BARLA to just two more tries, one to Jack Sutherland and a second for Gavin Conroy and with Danny Sayle converting the first the final score was 16-38 to the BARLA outfit.
Despite the scoreline Coach Danny Johnson praised his men for the afternoons work reminding them that they had faced a full GB Rep side and held their own for long periods of the match. Once again Mark Robinson had a great match initially at hooker but as a result of injuries had two or three positional changes throughout the match. Robinson’s efforts did not go unnoticed by the BARLA management who awarded him the RN man of the match award. For BARLA their skipper Davey Jones had a big influence whilst on the field and it was noticeable that his side were better organised when he was on the field. BARLA international Manager Mick Turner thanked RNRL for the match as well as the hospitality making special mention of Danny Johnson who was not only instrumental in setting up the match but organising accommodation for the BARLA squad at HMS Sultan.
Overall the match was played in the best spirit of the game, tough, uncompromising tackling with both sides showing flair in attack with the beginnings of an equally spirited social starting straight after the formal presentations had been made.
ROYAL NAVY: 1. Craig Sutton 2. Ben Johnson, 3. Wilson Tulukepa, 4. Silvinusi Buinimasi, 5. Nas Rawace, 6. Kev Botwood, 7. Steve Lockton, 8. Jack Savage, 9. Mark Robinson (Capt.), 10. Matty Corrigan, 11. Tommy Wilkinson, 12. Craig Russell Sutton, 13. Ben Taylor, Subs: 14. Sam Drury, 15. McCoy Turner, 16. Mike Tulakepa, 17. Wayne John
Tries: Botwood 34, Buinimasi 56, 65
Goals: John 2
BARLA GREAT BRITAIN COUGARS: 1. Chris Warren (Milliom), 2. Phil Morrison (Thatto Heath Crusaders), 3. Clayton Sutton (Egremont Rangers), 4. Jack Ridsdill (West Hull), 5. Gavin Conroy (Widnes St Marie’s), 6. Ross Gainford (Kells), 7. Danny Lynch (Pilkington Recs), 8. Tom Richardson (West Hull), 9. James Delaney (Dewsbury Moor), 10. Chris Penrose (Skirlaugh), 11. Davey Jones (captain) (West Bank Bears), 12. Dan Morrow (Walney Central), 13. Scot Mountain (Skirlaugh), Subs: 14.Troy Brophy (Warrington Wizards), 15. Dan Sayle (Dalton), 16. Jack Southern (Barrow Island), 17. Adam Masson (Shaw Cross Sharks), 18. James Barker (Milford Marlins), 19. Lyndon Robertson (Leigh East).
Tries: Warren 3, Jones 15, Ridsdill 24, Morrow 52, Conroy 62, 76, Masson 68, Sutherland 72
Goals: Lynch 2, Sayle 1
Half Time: 6-16
Man of the Match: Mark Robinson (Royal Navy), Davy Jones (BARLA Great Britain Cougars)