Late Drama at Devonport Sees Mariners Snatch Win

19 April 2024

18:00 @ Devonport Services RFC

Mariners- RN Vets


RAF Vultures

The Navy Mariners scored three tries in the final few frantic minutes to secure an opening round Inter Service Championship win over a Royal Air Force Vultures team whose commitment to the cause was total throughout the 80 minutes.

The harum-scarum nature of what would come in the second half was glimpsed in the play which led to the opening points.

A Garryowen from Navy fly half Richard Cadywould brought a volley ahead from RAF wing Ashley Davies. Mariners’ full back, Paul Saberton, then ran the ball back but conceded a penalty on the 22, converted by Phil Thomas.

The Navy had the first sight of the whitewash. Second row Lloyd John cut a great line through the light blue defence, only for his offload to centre Jez Parsons – in the team as a late injury call-up – to be ruled forward. The RAF won a penalty in the subsequent play to clear, and then hooker Pete Glanville combined with centre Thomas Gardner to go straight through the middle of the Navy rear-guard.

This was not turned into points either as the Navy this time were awarded a penalty. Then at the other end Glanville pulled off a try-saving tackle on Mariner’s winger, Steve Mahoney, who was building up a head of steam and eyeing the try line.

So, the score was still 3 - 0 to the RAF at the end of the opening quarter, but there was plenty of both endeavour and ambition from both teams, who were looking to mix and match their play and get the ball wide as often as possible.

Mahoney was felled by another tackle, but while this gave the RAF a lineout, they could not take advantage, instead conceding a penalty from which Cadywould tied things up.

There was equality in cards, too, when the Navy’s Tom Blackburn and RAF’s John Mason saw yellow after a melee in front of the main stand.

When the dust settled, Cadywould landed a second penalty, which was more than matched by Thomas’s long-range effort as the clock ticked into injury time.

To this point the attacks from both teams had foundered on the 22-metre line. But when Lee Queeley lined up his opposite number and powered through the space opened and the first try was a formality between the sticks.

Thomas’s conversion was a formality, and while the 13 - 6 half-time score was promising for the RAF there was more to come in the opening salvos of the second half. The RAF won possession deep in the Navy’s 22, and playing with the advantage Thomas fired a long pass to the unmarked Davies to score.

This lit the touch paper, and within a few minutes the Mariners had a try of their own, Pemberton scoring after Matt Bowden and John had come close themselves. Cadywould’s conversion brought the deficit back to 13-18 and the contest was very much on.

Heading into the final quarter the increased pace was taking its toll, with forced replacements and players being left strewn across the park.

RAF shortfalls had helped create the space for Pemberton, and the same applied at the other end, too, when James Challenger carved a line to the whitewash to take the Vultures’ lead back into double figures.

Thomas’s conversion made the score 25 - 13, but Challenger went from hero to zero when he spilled a pass with the line at his mercy after outstanding approach play by his teammates.

That would surely have killed the contest off and the reaction on the field and in the stands told the story. The same would have applied had Thomas landed a penalty shot with 70 minutes gone. And having been let off, the Mariners swung momentum their way with a close-range driving maul which brought a try in the right corner.

Cadywould’s conversion was superb, and at 25 - 20 and a handful of minutes to play it was game on.

But teams need the bounce of the ball as well, and this was exactly what the Mariners got when a Cadywould high cross field kick bounced into James Elliott’s grateful arms. He powered through the tackle and fed Dane Waryck for the try.

However, the conversion was dragged left of the posts, leaving the scores at 25-all going into injury time. Thomas also missed another penalty, and instead of having had the air sucked out of their efforts, the Mariners turned things their way in spectacular fashion.

A four-to-two overlap on halfway saw the ball put through the hands, Bowden making the critical run and calm offload for Saberton to finish things off. The RAF were flat on their backs, Player of the Match Cadywould added the conversion and the Mariners saw out the win, 32 - 25.

Congratulations to LT Al Bodel, CPO Ryan Cox and PO Chris Hart for winning their Mariners’ caps! Chris said after the game, “This is the greatest moment of my life!”

Mariners: P Manning, E Gaught, T Blackburn; A Bodel*, L John (C); S Hillman, B Priddey, G Evans; R Cox*, R Cadywould, M Bowden, J Parsons, D Waryck, S Mahony, P Saberton.
Replacements: C Hart*, P Price, P Kewn, I Scovell, A Riley, V Vallender, J Elliott, D Williams.

* Denotes Mariners cap.

Words by Chris Wearmouth

Images by Callum Sanders