Former Royal Navy winger made the telling interception for the score that broke the Combined Services resistance in the 2014 Remembrance Day match. Having extended their 7-5 half time lead to 10 -5 the Combined Services were pegged by to 10-10 by the first of Josh’s tries and then, with the game in the balance, Josh Drauniniu made a trademark interception to race down for a try under the posts that was easily converted. From then on the Combined Services could never fully get on terms and eventually suffered a 31 -15 loss. The win extends the Barbarians lead to 9 – 5 over the CS since the recent run of fixtures was started in 1997.
Like the Women’s game on Friday night the game ended up being played in terrible conditions with the rain reaching biblical proportions at times. However the Barbarians stayed true to their philosophy of always looking to play the game with the ball in hand and after a couple of missed early kicks at goal the Combined Services followed suit. It was therefore a little surprising that the opening Barbarian score, during the best of the conditions, was from an old fashion forward rumble which sent Cardiff Blues Jon Edwards over for the opening try. With the Combined Services unable to hold them back it was 5-0 before many at Bath’s Recreation Ground had settled following the respectful observation of a minutes silence for the fallen.
With a penalty missed on five minutes by Navy fullback Jon Humphrey and another easier one a few minutes later, the game settled in to a routine of thrust and counter thrust. Both side’s defences were holding firm and it was often the spilled ball that allowed for the counter attack opportunity that each side were eager to seize. An early break from RAF rising star, lock forward Josh McNally, gave the Barbarians defence a wake up call and shortly afterwards the CS forwards combined to hammer a sizeable hole in the Barbarians close quarter defence. However despite promising openings the Services side were unable to get the much needed opening score.
Having weathered the Combined Services period of pressure it was the Barbarians turn to exert some pressure as the game continued to be played at pace and the ball moved wide. Just when it looked as if a second try was on the cards a promising Barbarians move broke down with the Army’s Perceli Nacavamuto running from his own 22m to level the match. With the conversion nailed CS had their nose in front 7-5 as the game entered the last ten minutes of the first half.
And what a ten minutes it was! First all of the Combined Services supporters thought they had a second try with a clean break, only for Mr Garner’s whistle and eagle eye to pull them back for midfield obstruction. Then it looked as it the Barbarians forwards had engineered a second try for themselves. However with a sense of déjà vu Greg Garner against whistled for, this time for a CS penalty and half time was reached with no further score.
The Combined Services opened the scoring in the second half with another penalty attempt, third time lucky. Or not as the case may be. Whether the Barbarians took umbrage at CS’s continued desire to kick for goal or just that they upped their game, the penalty kick was the last bright spot for the Combined Services in the third quarter. From the restart the Barbarians took the game to the Services and began to exert some real pressure. Lifting the tempo of the match they began to find gaps in the CS defence and from a quickly taken penalty Josh Drauniniu was set free to score his opening try and level the scores. With Barbarians spirits soaring they were soon on the attack again but it is to the Services immense credit that they weathered the onslaught and found a way back in to the contest for territory and possession. It was therefore so much harder for them that they squandered their first real period of pressure of the second half to a Draininiu sucker punch. Under the posts 17-10 and a few weary Services bodies making their way back under the posts.
Services knew they had to score next if they were to stay in the hunt and it was following a good piece of continuity that the Army’s Luke Robinson crossed to reduce the deficit. With the conversion missed CS were still behind and the Barbarians were still seemingly full of running. With the rain and pace of the game not relenting it was the Barbarians who were to finish the stronger of the two sides. First Exeter Chiefs, man of the match, Charlie Walker Blair crossed and as the game drew to a close Herriot’s Alan Brown went over for their fifth.
31-15 was probably a fair reflection of the eighty minutes though both sides contributed to a wonderful exhibition of full-blooded rugby in the finest traditions of the Game that sent the 6500 crowd home satisfied if a little damp. And as a final observation spare a thought for the groundsman at the Bath. It is a hundred years since the bloodiest War in history was typified by the futility of trench warfare. It is to his credit that the Recreation Ground held up so well so that today’s best rugby players of the Services and the Barbarians could put on display that did both their proud heritages justice.
For Navy Rugby followers a special mention must go to Johnny Stephen, Josh Terry and Dave Fairbrother for their first CS caps and Dave Sibson for his first after a break of 13 years, the last was in 2001 against Romania.
Combined Services: Terry, Dwyer, Manning, McNally, Cormack, Ball, Mundy, Fairbrother, Stephen, Dixon, Gillespie, Wessels, Nacamuvuto, Mann, Humphrey Reps Evans, Beasley, Coghlan, Jpe, Robinson, Prasad, Raumakita, Tamatawale