RAF Rugby Union Cup Final 29 Mar 17 – RAF Waddington Hornets RFC v RAF Brize Norton Buccaneers
The two-week build up to this game drew attention from across the RAF rugby community, with many writing Waddington off before looking at the impressive unbeaten run for over a year, including retaining the RAF Cup in the ‘other’ code of Rugby League. Having beaten RAF Lossiemouth in the semi-final, (Cup Champions for the last three years), the squad looked markedly stronger than the team that won the RAFRU Shield in the 2015-16 season.
Both teams took to the field in less than ideal blustery conditions. Having lost the coin toss and playing with the wind at their backs for the first half, Waddington received the kick off deep in their own 22. An early mistake by the Hornets forwards led to a knock-on and a Buccaneers scrum. The Brize Norton intent to attack was clear from the outset; however, with such a strong Rugby League fraternity the Hornets lapped it up, allowing the Buccaneers to make the mistakes. This cycle of Buccaneers attack and strong Hornets defence went on for the next 15 minutes. Until eventually Waddington made a break and their outside centre ran 80 metres to score the first try of the match. Unconverted the score sat at 5-0 for the next 8-minutes.
Brize Norton were keen to try and answer back immediately, and the game once again sat within the Hornets half. The Buccaneers were throwing everything they could at the black and yellow wall, but just couldn’t penetrate the defence. The Hornets had a man sent off for 10 minutes which allowed the Buccanners to press in harder attempting to capitalise on the extra man. However, this galvanised the Waddington men who threw bodies all over the pitch to keep them out, with a turnover on the far touchline, cleared out to the 22. Although the initial pressure had been released, the danger was still very much there. With the ball spinning out to the opposite touch line but staying behind the gain line, the Buccaneers attempted to take it back across and stretch the Hornets line. Another huge tackle from the Hornets centre pairing sent the ball bouncing into the hands of their second row player who powered forward to the Brize Norton 10 metre line before passing the ball out of the back of his hand to the wing, who sprinted the 40 metres to score under the posts completely untouched. This time the conversion was successful and the score stood at 12-0 with just over 10 minutes of the first half left to play.
With their heads held low from repeated failed attacks the Buccaneers restarted. Gathering the kick off Hornets Captain made a surge towards their 10 metre line only to be brought down by a last gasp tackle. The resultant ruck saw a second Hornets player shown the yellow card when he came in from the side and cleared out a Brize player. Only 3 minutes into the first sin-bin and now Waddington were down to 13 men. This is where the hard-nosed Rugby League mentality began to show, as time after time Brize Norton tried to power their way through to the Hornets line but they were pushed back and forced into making errors. Holding on for seven minutes the scores remained the same and the Buccaneers began to look desperate – they could see a fourth successive loss in the final approaching. Back up to 14 men and shortly back to a full complement of 15 players the Hornets saw out the first half 12-0.
The second half saw changes in the Buccaneers back line with their outside half limping off within a minute of kick-off. This was the catalyst for a change in game plan from a direct running attack to using the stronger wind that had now built up on their backs to kick as far down field into the Hornets half as possible and then put pressure on the defending set piece. Waddington sucked up the pressure for another 10 minutes before a penalty was awarded to Brize Norton in front of the posts, who readily stepped up and took the 3 points, and finally a place on the score sheet. This obviously settled many of the Buccaneers nerves as they returned the kick-off with a long range kick back to the Hornets 5 metre line. Managing to clear against the wind as far as their 10 metre line the Hornets stole the Buccaneers lineout, only for it to be judged illegal, and Waddington found themselves back defending from within their own 22.
Some loose passing and turnovers went between both sides before Hornets replacement fumbled a difficult pass and knocked on giving Brize Norton a scrum 10 metres out. From this the Buccaneers No.8 picked up from the back and ran in untouched close to the posts – an unfortunate mis-understanding of the rules by Hornets blindside flanker, who wasn’t aware that he could tackle him as soon as the ball left the scrum. The conversion was successful and Brize Norton were back to within two points. 12-10, with 65 minutes played.
Brize Norton’s backs were now up and unfortunately all of the territory and possession they had had throughout the game began to show as the Waddington players seemed out on their feet. With penalty after penalty being gifted to the Buccaneers, it was only a matter of time before the brick wall of defence would crumble. With less than 10 minutes to play the flood gates opened and two more tries were scored taking the score to 20-10 in favour of the Buccaneers. A minute left to go and with a howling gale now at their backs Brize Norton kicked long down the centre of the field, the bounce of the ball unluckily favouring the attacking side, who ran onto it and with a two-on-one were able to score out wide to seal the game.
The final score sat at Waddington Hornets 12 – 25 Brize Norton Buccaneers.
A dejected Hornets team gathered to clap the Brize Norton side as they finally lifted the Cup that had evaded them for the last 3 years. Despite the loss it is clear that RAF Rugby Union is no longer being dominated by just two sides. Team Captain Anton Bainbridge addressed his players and highlighted just how well the side played, not just for the first 65 minutes of this game, but throughout the season, going unbeaten for over a year.
Envitia is a major supplier of the geospatial technology which enables shared situational awareness for on-board ISTAR platforms, making the link-up between Envitia and the RAF Waddington Hornets a natural choice for a continuing successful partnership. RAF Waddington is a state-of-the-art military unit, recognised as the air force’s main hub for the latest in ISTAR technology.
Envitia are extremely proud to contribute to the Hornets’ success. The team has done exceptionally well and although runners up this time round, they have shown great form this year and we are excited to see what the future entails..