The Brothers march on to the second round of the Challenge Cup for the third year in a row!

Storyline: Rugby League

A dominant second half performance saw Royal Navy Rugby League overcome a 6-point half time deficit against the RAF taking their first game of the tournament, 28:22.

Described by the BBC as the ‘stand out tie of the round’ the clash was broadcast live on the BBC i-player giving AF Rugby League a huge amount of exposure highlighting the quality of the game in the services.

This was the first outing for both teams since last year’s Inter Service series and was played under several new and amended rules brought in for the 2024 season. 

The Rugby Football Leagues senior female referee Tara Jones officiated the match and with the help of her touch judges kept the game flowing whilst penalising any infringements by either side. 
The first half saw the sides exchange scores, the RAF taking an early 4:0 lead after 5 minutes with an unconverted try. Soon after the RN replied, a neat grubber by Scrum half MNE Rhys Joel hit the base of the posts and bounced into the arms of LPT James Teixeira who touched down under the posts. A straight forward conversion by PO Ben Chambers gave the RN a 4:6 advantage. 

A more regulation try, again scored by Teixeira, moved the Brothers further ahead. Hooker LET James Tilley sparked the move from dummy half giving Teixeira the scoring opportunity, another conversion by Chambers had the Brothers ahead by 8 points after the first quarter.

A couple of injuries requiring off field treatment disrupted the RN shape allowing the RAF a way back into the game which they capitalised on enjoying their best phase of the match. So, from being 8 points down the home side turned the game on its head with two tries and a conversion taking an 18:12 lead into the half time break.

RN Head coach CPO Darren Bamford’s half time talk certainly had its effect on his side as RNRL totally dominated the second half both territorially and score wise. A re-energised RN side pressed for an early 2nd half score but resolute RAF defence kept the Brothers at bay until the 50th minute. 

The returning AET Jack Ray finally broke the RAF line forcing himself over the line for the try, Chambers conversion was good bringing the scores level at 18:18. 

With play almost exclusively in the RAF half another RN score seemed inevitable and after another great move from midfield left centre AET Jack Bartlett used his strength to get over the line and put his side ahead once more. With only a narrow 4 point lead another score was needed to secure the game for the RN. 

The killer blow was struck by stand-off, AET, Charlie Mattison touching down to the right of the uprights, Chambers making no mistake with a two pointer to put his side out to a ten-point lead at 18:28. 

The RAF did not give up though and in a frantic last 5 minutes they scored a try of their own however with the missed conversion that was to be the last action of a thrilling encounter between the two great rivals. 

Final score 22:28, a thoroughly well-deserved win for RNRL masterminded off the field by Coach Bamford and on the field by CIS Brodie-Lee Butler on his debut as skipper backed up by vice-captain Mne Dave Brown. Skipper Butlers efforts were rewarded by him receiving the Man Of The Match award at the post match reception being awarded the Man of the Match trophy.

A great contest very much enjoyed by those at the game as well as those watching the BBC live stream judging by the social media comments at full time. 

Next up for the Brothers is a 2nd round tie against Mersey side team Thatto Heath Crusaders with the match to be played at USSG Burnaby Road in Portsmouth on 28th January. 

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