Mariners Enjoy an Arm Wrestle with Devonport Services


RN Mariners


Devonport Services RFC Veterans

Mike Plant scanning for support.
Crash ball specialist Valemi taking it up to and beyond the gain line.
Semi Tabaanivesi looking to offload to Richardson.
Player Coach Jez Parsons made an impact when he came off the bench.
Saberton orchestrating activity with Valemi and Erne preparing for the grunt work.

On a dull Wednesday evening the Mariners prepared for their second fixture of the ‘23 Inter Services campaign, travelling to Plymouth to face a Devonport Service RFC over 30s side at Keyham Sports Facility. A squad of 24 was named with the coaches sneaking onto the bench, adding depth and skill to the line-up. Head Coach Oliver James has been working hard on the player combinations, and this game was focused on this developmental plan.

The first half started with a bang! WO2 Valemei charged over the line after the first 2 mins after running a great supporting line off LH Paul Saberton, but the lead did not last long as Services kept up the pressure and attacked the Mariner’s line, try converted 5 - 7. For aging players over 35 the rugby on display was fantastic, big collisions, fast hands and thumping tackles. Saberton kicked a penalty for persistent offside to retake the lead before Services responded with 2 tries to make the score 8-17.

The Mariners altered combinations within the backs at the 20 minutes mark with an almost immediate effect. Saberton broke from the base of the ruck and Sgt Jez Parsons cut a straight line to coast towards the line unchallenged 15-17.

The adept Services number 10 marshalled the game well, pinning the Mariners in their own half. Looking to wrest the advantage with tactical kicks and profit from Mariners mistakes, Devonport scored after a delicate tip off close to the line 15-24. Blushes were saved as Saberton’s steady hands and fast feet foxed and tangled the legs of Services’ defence to score close to the posts 22-24, HT.

With the second half came more changes as the coaches needed to see how players performed with different partnerships, conscious that this never helps build momentum. Lt Mike Plant was carded for collapsing the maul; it’s hard to believe because any sensible 10’s rarely venture so close to them – let’s put it down to eagerness to disrupt! From 10 metres out Services took the advantage and scored under the posts 22-31.

Every breakdown was contested by both teams; this physical encounter was always going to be a spicy affair. Even when Services dropped down to 14, they kept pushing, scoring from close range at the end of the 10 minutes sin bin. 22-38.

In the last quarter more changes were made by the Mariners, the style of game changed from frantic to controlled. The Mariners worked hard on their structure to ensure space to move the ball wide which gave Cpl Semi Tabanivesi the freedom to explore the outside of the services defence 29-38.

Both teams battled hard with passion and grit, trying where they could, to pick open the defence. A yoyo affair and broken play allowed both teams to score again before the final whistle with AB Steve Mahony taking the final honours. At full time the final score was Mariners 34 Devonport Services RFC 47.

The game had everything you’d expect from two great sides. The Mariners are grateful to DSRFC for the game and the support in their IS23 build up.

Their next Fixture sees the Mariners face Havant RFC on the 8 Feb at Havant RFC.

Mariners Squad: Price, Erne, Kewn, Richardson, Heffernan, Valemei, Junior, Manning, Saberton (c), Plant, Mahony, Darnley, Hunt, Flowers, Kent, James, Veall, Hart, Wotton, Tabanivesi, Scovell, Cozens, Fuca, Parsons.

PoTM Fwd: Manning; Back: Hunt

Words by G Pallet; Images by Jarrad Hulm