Royal Navy Sharks’ season draws to an end at the Harpenden National Pub 7s



Satala leaves the opposition in his wake!
The Navy Stingrays take on the South Wales Wildcats
Navy Sharks Team Captain Sam Benzie leads by example
Navy Stingray team captain Tom Tyrell in action
The Royal Navy Sharks Team at Harpenden 2017
The Royal Navy Stingrays Team at Harpenden 2017

The Royal Navy Sharks' long season has now drawn to a close having started back in May at East Grinstead 7s and finishing at Harpenden National Pub 7s at the end of August.  They encountered disappointing losses in 3 cup finals but were victorious in a further 3 Cup finals at Yeovil, Newquay and Abingdon plus a Plate final at Bury St Edmonds to top it off.  The new Development side, the Royal Navy Stingrays, have played their first season and the RNRU 7s set up has attracted many more players to the shorter and faster paced game of Rugby Union.  The RNRU were also able to field a Women’s 7s team, the Makos, at Hartpury, Yeovil and Havant which is the first time the Women have fielded a 7s team so all in all there has been lots going on during the weekends this summer.

On the last bank holiday of the year the Navy Sharks and Navy Stingrays were able to field two strong teams.  20 players travelled to Fort Blockhouse for training sessions on the Friday and Saturday before relocating to RAF Halton for final preps before game day itself.  Sam Benzie was team captain for the Sharks and Tom Tyrell was leading the Stingrays.  It was possibly one of the hottest Sundays in August with the sun in full blaze and no wind, perfect for watching rugby, but the teams knew that a hard day was ahead and preparation, game management and coping with the weather would be the key to success.

Both teams were drawn in groups of 3.  The Sharks first faced the Redditch Skip Hire team.  It was a tough match and neither side made much impact but then Charlie Heard scored followed by Simon Tulakepa just before half time but this was not enough and Redditch won 12 - 17.  The Stingrays had more success in their first game against the South Wales Wildcats, beating them 31 - 7.  The try scorers were Ryan Boulton, Api Daunibau, Jonny Stoppard and Tom Tyrell got 2!

The second games were very different.  The Sharks cruised to a whopping victory over the Seven Dwarves 59 - 0 with a 10 try haul and scores from Heard x3, Danny Lynch x2, Matt Horton x2 and Matt Holland and Biko Satala with one each.  The Stingrays faced a more experienced side, the Dambusters rugby, and they matched them with 2 tries but it would be the conversion count that let them down and they narrowly lost 12 - 14.

The draws for the next round were made and the Navy Sharks narrowly missed out on the Cup competition and were placed into the Plate round due to a lower number of total tries scored.  The Navy Stingrays were also in the Plate draw.  Both teams kicked off at the same time, the Stingrays v Thamesian 7s and the Sharks v South Wales Wildcats, who had previously lost to the Stingrays in the group stages.  Both teams played well but the Stingrays were unable to continue the form they had shown earlier and went down 7 - 32 to a well drilled side.  The Sharks were always in control of their match with Lynch adding another 2 tries to his tally and Luke Cooper making another 2.  The game was flowing, and with further scores from Tulakepa and Horton it ended 38 - 7 and the Sharks progressed to the next stage.

In the semi-final they met the Jamaica Blues, a side the Sharks had never played before.  The lads were on a roll and they dominated at every break down and every contest.  The Blues entered the Sharks’ half once in the whole game which resulted in a try in the far corner. In all 8 tries were scored by 8 different Sharks’ players which proved that keeping to your systems and patterns of play works and the result was a fine team performance winning 61 - 5.

The Plate final was between the Royal Navy Sharks and the home side, the Harpenden Roosters.  The Sharks’ players had picked up a few knocks throughout the day and they were reduced to 9 men.   Making the most of the home advantage the Roosters scored after 2 minutes out wide but were unable to convert 0 - 5.  It took another 4 minutes of play for Charlie Heard to draw the score 5 - 5 going into half time.  After the break the Roosters scored again this time breaking clear in mid-field and scoring under the posts 5-12.  From the restart Heard gathered the ball and raced through the Roosters defence but could only manage to put the ball down in the corner to make it 10 - 12.  With 5 mins to play, both sides had opportunities to score but the priority was to keep the opposite side out and the game finished 10 - 12 to the Roosters.  It was disappointing to lose another final however it has been a long 7s season with many lessons learned and areas of improvement identified for next season. 

At the end of the tournament team captain Sam Benzie and Head Coach Silivenusi Buinimasi awarded the season trophies which were as follows,

Royal Navy Sharks' Player of the season:  Charlie Heard
Royal Navy Stingrays' player of the season:  Liam Williams
Rookie of the season:  Tom Tyrell
Most Valued Player:  Ben Chambers

The Royal Navy Sharks, Stingrays and Makos would like to thank all players, supporting staff and establishments for their contribution to the success of the 7s Rugby Teams this season.

Team Lists
Royal Navy Sharks: Sam Benzie (captain), Ben Jeacock, Biko Satala, Charlie Heard, Danny Lynch, Luke Cooper, Matt Holland, Matt Horton, Pat Coy, Toots Vakalutukali and Simon Tulakepa.
Royal Navy Stingrays: Tom Tyrell (captain), Jerry Rodelana, Api Daunibau, John Bola, David Hemming, Jonny Stoppard, Matt Scott, Ryan Boulton, and Suli Naulivou
Training Support Group: Nathan Moore and Guy Pallett (Team Managers), Silivenusi Buinimasi, Biko Satala, Jarred Hayler and Marcus Stevens (Coaches), Kila O’Boyle and Matt Knight (Medical/Physio) David Hemmings (S&C)

Words by G Pallett
Images RNRU © John Walton