Inverdale Trophy: Big Hits In The Mud As Royal Navy's Finest Battle It Out

The Fleet Air Arm (FAA) has won the 2018 Inverdale trophy to become the Royal Navy Command's top rugby union side.

Its players defeated the Plymouth-based sailors of Western Command 29-7 in the final in Portsmouth.

The Western Command squad was keen to take home the title, having not won it since 2004, but they were up against a much stronger set of forwards who dominated them in the open stages.

Royal Navy rugby union Inverdale Trophy 2018
The FAA started strong from the outset

The first try, from a line-out, was a classic drive. Ben Priddey got on the end of it, with the score converted by Greg Lloydall.

He then added a penalty before the Fleet Air Arm made another push for the line, this time displaying pure power from the scrum.

Kye Beasley got the score this time, with Lloydall again adding the extras to make it 17-0.

Royal Navy rugby union Inverdale Trophy 2018
Lloydall had a successful evening with the boot

And the third try was no more than they deserved. Western Command had no answers to the strength of the FAA's forwards, marshalled by captain Chris Warner.

Beasley was again the scorer, with another conversion sailing through the posts to make it 24-0.

Western Command's first real push into opposing territory came right on the stroke of half-time - and it produced some much-needed points.

Royal Navy rugby union Inverdale Trophy 2018
A 'friendly moment'

Sam Whitfield notched a try after some persistent pressure, with Todd Croft converting to leave it 24-7 at the break.

And his team was much more competitive in the second half, without really putting the Fleet Air Arm under too much pressure inside their 22.

But it was the team in light blue who collected a fourth try, which would ultimately prove to be the only points scored in the second period.

Royal Navy rugby union Inverdale Trophy 2018
Western Command grew into the game - but it was all too late...

Full-back Ben Chambers, one of several men who impressed the Royal Navy selectors watching on, produced an excellent individual effort to go over.

Not to be outdone, Steve Hillman produced a terrific run for Western Command near the end of the game, although it perhaps deserved better than ending by running into the opposition's brick wall defence.

Ultimately, however, 29-7 was a fair reflection of the FAA's superiority. Air Engineering Technician Warner was proud of his side's efforts:

"[It was a] team effort really... [I'm] over the moon.

"We knew they had some firepower on the bench... We knew tonight they were going to come down here with a good side [and] they were going to be committed."

"They made a real game of it tonight. Hats off to them."

The match was the culmination of four months of a Navy Command competition that had also involved the Royal Marines, Eastern Command and Northern Command.

Teams had battled it out in a series of round-robin matches for the chance to win a trophy named after keen rugby player and former Royal Navy Surgeon Captain John Inverdale, who passed away in 1987.

His son, the well-known BBC broadcaster of the same name, presented the FAA players with their trophy, which was originally donated for use in the competition by his father.

He told Forces Network: "It was a good game. I enjoyed it enormously."

The match will provide food for thought for the Navy selectors ahead of matches against the Army and RAF in the Inter-Services.

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