Mariners V HMS Heron
The inaugural Mariners' fixture of the 2013/14 season was played in December for the first time in 5 years. It was a perfect opportunity for the squad to get together, introduce the new coaching team of Paul Clark, George Hillan and Stu Moss to the players and square away all the administration issues for the coming campaign. With upwards of 30 players on the signal and with the majority all available for the game it boded well but, with over 10 cry offs that very morning the resulting turnout was disappointing. There were a number of debutantes for the Mariners and all these players; Thompson, Breach, Laidler, Wilson and Westwood are most welcome to return in the New Year.
After a meeting in the late morning and the usual pre-amble to discuss fixtures and Inter Service plans the assembled masses took to the training field for a light session - the backs went through their moves with Paul Clark and this year’s Captain, Jamie Phillips and the limited number of forwards practised some line out drills – little else could be achieved given the numbers and sunlight left in the day.
HMS Heron clearly saw this as a competitive fixture and turned out 18 players with intent in their eyes –insider information indicated that ball control and game management would be key: if the Mariners could maintain forward control then they should triumph – let Heron have the ball out wide at your peril!!! With the Mariners having to borrow a young Heron back to fill in the number 11 shirt and the majority of the TSG constituting the bench replacements it didn’t look too promising.
The game was played in 4 x 20 minute periods. The Mariners won the toss and elected to kick – straight away the game settled into a pattern that would repeat through the first 20mins. Rucks were inconsistent and turned over by both teams; scrummages were well contested but the battle of the front rows won by the RN and line outs were a hit and miss affair. The penalty count was high with contrasting strategies at the mark – the Mariners elected to kick all penalties to touch even though some were well within kicking distance and Heron always elected to run the quick ball. Silly mistakes dominated the first quarter but it was played mostly in the Heron half with the aviators rarely getting beyond half way. The quarter ended with a Mariner line out taken by Charlie Breach on the Heron 10 yards, turned into a rolling maul and Geordie Wilson coming up with the try. (RN 5-0)
Converted by Paul Clark (RN 7-0)
The second quarter saw no changes to the Mariners XV. The patterns established in the first quarter continued for a further 5 minutes until Heron began to exploit the running lines of their 9-10-12-13 combinations. Heron looked for a kick and chase game and dominated the possession. The mariners looked to run short passes off the base of set piece and rucks but good Heron defence continually stopped the runners from making the gain line. Too many knock-ons and missed tackles from the Mariners led to good possession for Heron which resulted in a try for their right hand winger – not converted. (RN 7-5)
The resulting kick off is returned to the RN 10 metre line and a succession of short rucks give Heron a penalty as the Mariners kill the ball. On the thirty minute marked Stu Moss came on for Dave Thompson. The Mariners gain some ground but never really challenge the Heron goal line. The quarter settles with the game swaying between the 22m lines. The quarter ends (RN 7-5)
The Mariners swapped props for the start of the third quarter with Dave Thompson returning to the fray and Moose Bastow having a rest. Heron starts this quarter with far more gusto and intent which results in quick penalties for RN offsides. Whilst the Mariners are still dominant in the scrummage area, Heron begin to impose themselves in the loose and after a couple of missed tackles and good rucking the Heron outside centre scores – not converted. (RN 7-10)
The Mariners make a back row change and bring on Chairman Andy Phenna to replace Geordie Wilson. The Mariner forwards try their hardest to retain the ball but handling errors and resultant quick penalties lead to Heron possession, resulting in their no 7 scoring – not converted (RN 7-15).
Andy Phenna and Richie England have now exchanged places and Andy’s first action at hooker is to win the ball against the head. An injury to Lee Norris allows Moose to come back onto the pitch at No 8. More Mariner dominance in the set piece allows Moose to exercise his legs but the expansive play for the Mariners is yet to catch fire and the ball is too easily turned over to Heron. The Mariner back row is made to work hard and Paul Laidler in particular makes a number of defining tackles. Far too often though the Mariner forwards kill quick ball on the ground and this needs to be addressed before the next game. The quarter ends with RN possession but no further points gain. (RN 7-15)
Going into the last quarter the Mariners looked tired and needed to regain their earlier composure and shape – Heron were exploiting their pace in their back division and the Mariners were struggling to get their back row into defensive positions. The last change was to replace Paul Laidler at No 7 (cramp) with Geordie Wilson. After some kicking tennis the Mariners get an early penalty which is kicked to touch – the resulting line out is won and some promising forward carries, particularly by Moose Bastow, end in the inevitable lost ball. The Heron backs return this play and with penalty advantage they make their way to the RN 22m line. The resulting line out and interplay results in quick ball for Heron which is marched forward by the referee as the Mariners refuse to give the ball back at the penalty mark! The penalty is converted into a try by the Heron no 13 – converted. (RN 7 – 22)
Paul Laidler comes back on to Jan Watkins a welcome rest and Wilson goes into the second row. A poor kick-off, straight to touch from Paul Clark results in a scrum half way. Yet again the Mariners boss the scrum and get one against the head, converted to a penalty and quick ball taken by Stu Moss who makes good ground. The following Mariners line out is taken by Wilson and is converted to a rolling maul which travels a full 15 yards and Laidler falls over the line to score the try. The conversion attempt by Clark hits the post! (RN 12-22)
The restart is taken well by the Mariners forwards but another ‘crossing’ incident allows Heron to regain possession. Heron win a scrum directly in front of the posts 15 yards out and good interplay allows the Heron full back to elude two tackles and score under the posts – converted. (RN 12-29)
The Mariner’s gas tank is now on fumes and despite a valiant rearguard action by the backs, led by Captain Jamie Phillips, Heron score a further try through their No 8. The kick is converted by a drop kick to see heron end the game deserved winners. (RN 12-36)
This was a useful game for the Mariners and notwithstanding the lack of numbers they put up a decent performance against a strong Heron side. The old adage of ‘Forwards win matches – backs decide by how many’ was evident here and on the day the Heron backs had the edge.
1. ‘Moose’ Bastow
2. Richie England
3. Dave Thompson
4. Jan Watkins
5. Charlie Breach
6. Paul Laidler
7. Geordie Wilson
8. Chuck Norris
9. Jon Holroyd
10. Tom Westwood
11. HMS Heron
12. Jamie Phillips (Capt)
13. Paul Clark (Head Coach)
14. Gaz Ibbotson (Asst Manager)
15. Paddy Gore
16. Stu Moss (Asst Coach)
17. Micky Flitcroft (Team Manager)
18. Andy Phenna (Chairman)
The next Mariners fixture will be Wednesday 15th January against Somerset Saxons.