Ocean get stung by the Scorpions in Kuwait
HMS Ocean v Kuwait Scorpions
The HMS Ocean rugby team travelled to Kuwait Scorpions on 6 January looking to keep their unbeaten record on their 'Tour of the Gulf' so far, keen to put down a marker before their forthcoming four games, against well known teams in the Middle Eastern rugby world over the next three months. However, despite a highly competitive and high scoring match, Ocean felt the sting - with the Scorpions ending victorious 31 - 29.
All rugby in the Middle East is played under floodlights in order to take advantage of the much cooler temperatures of the night, something the Ocean team has become accustomed to on this deployment however many of the players had to break open their cold weather kit before the kick off, with woolly hats and under-layers worn for the first time since leaving Plymouth back in mid-September of 2016.
The game started well for both teams and was played at an unbelievably quick pace, with the ball covering the field from touch line to touch line, and back again, in what seemed like a blink of an eye. It was the Scorpions who had the most possession in the first ten minutes, with phase after phase and attack after attack in Ocean’s final third. But Ocean isn’t nicknamed the “Mighty O” for nothing and the defence worked extremely hard making endless tackles and the Scorpions' big Fijian runners couldn't break through the defensive line. The whole team's defensive work was rewarded by the ceaseless work of Ocean’s back row, who between the three of them worked a turn-over and gave Ocean their first chance to display their attacking skills.
For the majority of the remainder of the first half it all went Ocean's way. On the hunt to find the hole in the Scorpions defence it wasn’t long before a well-placed kick over the top of the back line found Leading Airman Tom Scott, who broke past the covering defender. A sprint for the line followed and some hard work and scramble defence from the Scorpions nearly stopped this first attack. However due to some poor tackles in the Scorpion 22 and the strong support line run by Corporal Ian Roberts, Ocean opened the score board and added the conversion scored by fly-half Lieutenant Stu Lewis 0-7.
Now that Ocean had found the weak links in the Scorpion back line it wasn’t long before some free flowing rugby from the visitor’s forwards and backs combined to find their way down the Scorpions half to within just five metres of the try line. However it was the home team's time to show a bit of heart and they put their bodies on the line, in the literal sense, as the tireless phases of play from Ocean failed to get the ball clearly grounded. Nevertheless with the Scorpions using most of the team in and around the countless rucks that were forming it wasn’t long before Ocean had a clear overlap on the left hand side and then when the ball was quickly shipped to the backs was followed by a lovely miss-pass made by Lieutenant Lewis to the wing, the outcome was clear as Tom Scott safely caught the ball and dotted down in the corner. Unfortunately Lieutenant Lewis didn’t add to the score, pushing the kick wide, 0 -12.
With Ocean being the largest ship in the fleet, the rugby team are never short of players and the Ocean bench looked very healthy so with a few minutes of the first half to go the rolling subs began. Perhaps this wasn’t the best tactics for the ship as with so many changes in quick succession the structure of Ocean’s defence didn’t work as well as it had at the start of the game and the Scorpions were quick to take full advantage of this. Against the run of play they scored two very quick tries just before the half time break and, to add insult to injury, they slotted both the kicks between the posts to take the lead into half time 14 – 12.
The second half started a lot like the first finished with the Scorpions' tails up and ready to strike. Right from the kick-off they received the ball and ran in under the posts and, with the easy kick successful, Ocean was left wondering what to do next, now trailing the Scorpions 21 – 12. Take two from the Ocean kick off looked like an action replay of the try the Scorpions had just scored until Naval Airman Joey Baisden (in his first ever game of rugby) threw all of his 5ft 7ins and 60kg into the oncoming Scorpions' monster of a Fijian No8, coming down his wing, and in what can only be explained as a true David versus Goliath story, chopped the big man down so hard that the No8 had to leave the field with an injury. This clearly inspired the rest of the Ocean team because they found the fire from the first half again and really started to make a game of it.
With Ocean playing much like they had in the first half it wasn’t long before they were knocking on the door of the shocked Scorpions team and after a few pick and goes from the Ocean pack, they finally looked like the team that had started the game with Engineering Technician 'Jason' Bourne pumping his legs and pushing off tackles for the big second row to find the white wash. The conversion was missed again and Ocean were still behind 21 – 17.
With the clock showing the last ten minutes of play it was vital Ocean scored next but it seemed lady luck was not on Ocean’s side, and a penalty for not releasing the ball on the ground soon after kick off in front of the Ocean post was too good an offer not to take, to the disappointment of the home crowd who clearly wanted to see more running rugby. Yet the kick was taken and made the score 24 -17. Ocean regrouped and right from the restart won the ball back and with the Scorpions giving away countless silly penalties for not rolling away at the tackle, Ocean went on the attack and when Lieutenant Lewis kicked the ball behind them, Tom Scott was able to pick up his brace of tries for the night. Once again the much needed kick to level the scores was missed and the game went into the final few minutes 24 -22.
With the restart kicked deep into Ocean’s half, Ocean only had one option, to run it back hard but the Scorpions played smart, slowing the ball down at every break down, happily giving penalties away and running the clock down. A long kick to the corner lead to an Ocean lineout only ten metres from the Scorpions line and with the ball safely won the backs quickly worked the ball out wide only for it to be intercepted by the Scorpions' wing who ran the length of the pitch to dive over to score. With the kick made, the home side felt they had surely won the game 31 – 22.
However there was still time on the clock and Ocean wasn’t going down without a fight. Again winning the ball from the restart, Ocean pressed forward keeping it within the forwards and after some well worked pick and goes Marine Dom Taylor drove over for Ocean’s fifth try of the night. Finally finding his kicking form, Lieutenant Lewis was able to add the extra two points, and with that the final whistle blew. The final score was Kuwait Scorpions 31 – HMS Ocean RFC 29.
HMS Ocean would like to thank Kuwait Scorpions RFC and their many supporters who braved the cold weather (cold for Kuwait) to attend the fixture, and although they had no club house, they hosted our team with the warmest of welcomes.
Ocean’s Captain Naval Airman Tom Matanatabu said “It was a great game of rugby tonight, showing just how much talent there really is on our ship. To come to a team that plays week in week out and still compete with them (if not play better at times) shows credit to the lads”
Ocean’s Director of Rugby Leading Airman Barnaschone contributed “It was a good hard game” Man of the Match went to Lieutenant Stu Lewis. The Director of Rugby added “ As Eddie Jones once said talking about George Ford’s performance against Wales last year, we scored five tries away from home against a very good side, does it really matter if the lad missed a few kicks?”
Scorpions - 31
Tries (5) - Roberts, Scott (2), Bourne, Taylor
Con (2) – Lewis (2)
Ocean’s Team List:- Mason, Barnaschone, Barlow, Staniforth, Bourne, Ellor, Taylor, Matanatabu (captain), Christians, Lewis, Standish, Coughlin, Roberts, Scott, Haywood.
Subs :- Owen, Laycock, Baillie, Pullinger, McCarthy, Jones, McArdle, South, Robertson, Prendergast, Lawrence, Baisden, Woods, Stigie
Words by Chris 'Cinders' Ellor
Images © Crown Copyright 2017 LA(Phot) Shread