Braves 21 Royal Navy 22
Exeter Braves 21
Royal Navy 22
Mark Stevens at Sandy Park
The might of the Royal Navy came to the fore as they produced a strong second half showing to see off an Exeter Braves outfit at Sandy Park.
The Servicemen trailed 14-5 at the turn, having been given the runaround by the sprightly Braves during the opening half, but when push came to shove late on, they had too much in reserve for their rivals.
Two tries from skipper Scott Makepeace (2), plus further touchdowns for Eldon Myer and Kyp Bridgen were the visitors in a ding-dong battle that yielded seven tries on the night.
Exeter, it has to be said, played their part, scoring converted tries through Barry Karea, Tom Wyatt and Patrick Schickerling, but it was all in vain against a strong Navy side.
With the vistors keen to run the rule over their troops ahead of upcoming tests against the Royal Air Force and the British Army, it was a youthful-looking Braves outfit that provided the opposition for this midweek fixture.
No.8 James McRae led the Braves into battle, linking up with a host of fellow Academy starlets, as well as a sprinkling of players from local clubs.
Early doors and it was the home side who set the attacking tone, just three minutes had elapsed when a quickly-taken penalty from Skinner released Flynn Elworthy down the left. As the open-side opened his legs towards the try-line, it took a good cover tackle to halt his progress, allowing the Navy to regroup in numbers and eventually win a penalty that allowed them to clear the danger.
Undeterred, the Braves continued to pile forwards during the opening exchanges and they threatened again shortly after, Sam Baker, McRae and Archie Hill countering to good effect after the Navy had tried to pin their rivals back with a lengthy kick in behind.
Given front foot ball, however, the Braves worked the ball from the left flank to the right, before working the opening for centre Karea too brush aside the attentions of his opposite number and power over for the game’s opening try, which was converted by Skinner.
Home joy proved short-lived as within two minutes the Navy were up and running themselves. Winger Eldon Myer had trotted in off the left wing to pick a lovely line in the midfield, cutting through the Braves rearguard like a knife through butter. Although felled just shy of the whitewash, his pack were in close quarters, eventually working the opening for skipper Makepeace to barge his way over for the score.
It was proving end-to-end action between the two sides and when the Braves threatened again on 24 minutes, they were able to increase their advantage with a second converted score. McRae was the architect of the move, fielding a ball deep inside his own half, before then setting off on a marauding run through the middle of the Navy defensive line.
As the cover defence converged on the Exeter skipper, he was able to fling the ball wide to his left, finding centre Wyatt, whose nimble footwork, coupled with an injection of pace, allowed him to shake off his rival and cross for the score.
Exeter continued to shade possession and territory for the remainder of the first half, but either handling errors or stout defensive duties from the Navy kept them at bay and the scoreline remained untouched.
HALF TIME EXETER BRAVES 14 ROYAL NAVY 5
On the resumption, the Navy started brightly, taking the game to the Braves from the outset. Using their powerful pack to propel them downfield, they eventually worked an opening for Plymouth Albion centre Seta Raumakita to exploit some space. However, as he made his way towards the home posts, his one-handed offload failed to find a team-mate and McRae was able to soak up the threat, before Skinner cleared the danger fully.
Having survived that threat, the Braves used a penalty from Skinner to pin themselves back deep in the Navy 22 after Karea had been hit late as he looked to offload possession. The home side huffed and puffed around the try-line, but when the Navy held off the threat, they countered to deadly effect.
Craig Duncan led the break-out, instigating a slick handling move that eventually saw the ball fall into the grasp of Rees. His clever, outside of the boot, punt in behind was fielded by James Love, but with little support around him, the winger could did little but hold on for grim life.
The Navy used the resultant penalty to hammer home their second try of the night, Makepeace again the scorer as he battered his way over the line. Rees added the extras to make it a maximum haul for the visitors.
As it was in the first half, the Braves responded almost immediately. The home pack laid the foundations with some industrious work in the tight - and when the ball got to within striking distance of the line, it was prop Schickerling who forced his way over for the converted score.
It was entertaining stuff from both sides, but as the game trickled towards the final quarter, it was the Navy who started to flex their muscles. They cut the deficit when Myer raced in unopposed from halfway for their third try, then moments later determined work in the loose from Ben Priddey and Kye Beasley created the opening for Bridgen to storm over and put his side in front for the first time on the night.
With both sides opting to run their benches late on, it was the power game of the visitors that really started to make significant inroads late on. To their credit, though, the Braves dug in deep, holding at least two decent Navy raids at bay by some defiant, close-quarter defence.
Braves: S Baker (F Dart 61); J Love, T Wyatt (J Keay 67), B Karea, A Hill; H Skinner, J Ashby (T Cairns 61); D Southworth (W Norton 53), M Norey (D McGregor 74), P Schickerling (D Martin 78); L Pearson, C Teague; H Wright (S Butterworth 67), F Elworthy (B Oliphant-Thompson 74), J McRae (capt). Replacements: D Martin
Tries - Karea, Wyatt, Schickerling; Conversions - Skinner (3)
Royal Navy: C Duncan (P Coy 57); E Myer, S Raumakita (T Gobey 53), G Loydall, B Chambers (R Dimmock-Williams 40); N Huntley (B Jones 5-20, 25), G Rees (K Bridgen 53); J Terry (K Beasley 36), B Priddey, C Robinson; L Cooper, S Makepeace (capt); E Pascoe, M Spencer, D Johnson (B Watson 53). Replacements (not used): R Ives, L Williams, A Wilman, S Carter.
Tries - Makepeace (2), Myer, Bridgen; Conversion - Rees
Referee: B Russell