Vultures Snatch Victory From Mariners


RN Mariners


RAF Vultures

Photo Credit: Alligin Photography
Photo Credit: Alligin Photography
Photo Credit: Alligin Photography
Photo Credit: Alligin Photography
Photo Credit: Alligin Photography
Photo Credit: Alligin Photography
Photo Credit: Alligin Photography
Photo Credit: Alligin Photography

The Royal Navy Mariners were cruelly denied victory in their first Inter Service match of the 2022 season with the last kick of the game against the RAF Vultures.

In what would prove to be an excellent display of veterans rugby the Vultures pipped the Mariners 26-24 yesterday at Ealing Trailfinders Sportsground in London in the first of three excellent and combative rugby matches between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.

Transport issues which affected the team warm up and subsequently pushed all the kick off times during the day back by 15 minutes didn’t seem to matter when the Navy kicked off the match playing away from the pavillion end. The over 35s showed that there is life left in the old boys and that the pride and passion felt by the players isn’t diminished with age as they smashed into each other from the get go. The sun was shining and the pitch was fast, modern, synthetic astroturf which enabled both teams to play at an unexpectedly quick pace. 

POAET Lamsin was the first player to be checked by the medical staff, who would go on to have a busy morning, after a melee at the bottom of a ruck. Although he was fine the Mariners had gone off their feet and the RAF kicked to the corner from the ensuing penalty. With 3 minutes played the burgundy team caught, rumbled and rolled across the whitewash for the first score of the game to take a five point lead.

The Mariners increased the tempo and were quickly into the RAF’s red zone and exerting pressure, as would be a theme the last pass would prove problematic and a forward pass would mean that the RN were disallowed points and the RAF gained a reprieve. Play continued to be ferocious with both teams probing the other’s defence but another infraction allowed the RAF to kick to the corner once again and repeat their first effort in the other corner to take the score to 10-0.

The Mariner’s lost new cap, Out Half and former Senior XV player Lt Dane Smallbone in the first half but talismanic captain, LAET Paul Saberton showed why he is vital to the team with darting breaks and steadfast defence. An ambitious penalty effort from the half way line went wide and the final pass of a fantastic left wing break let the RAF keep the RN nilled until the 35th minute space was found out wide on the right for the CSgt Val Valemi to score, the conversion was missed.

Disastrously on the stroke of half time the RAF centre broke through the RN midfield to sprint in under the posts from 30 metres out and with the first successful kick of the day the RAF took a 17-5 lead into the break.

Two kickable penalties were offered up to the RAF shortly after half time with one of them going over and the game seemed to be slipping out of reach. But the Navy stalwarts like CSgt Valemi and Sgt Vallender kept pounding away and CPO Oli James made an awesome break out of his own half down the left flank only to be illegally tackled allowing the RN to kick for the corner. Again the RN spurned the chance and allowed the RAF to escape their red zone and eventually the Air Force were the next to score with another penalty taking the score to 23-5.

As the last ten minutes approached the Mariners were throwing the metaphorical kitchen sink at their opposition and finally side steps, great hands and a big bosh allowed LAET Col Campbell to crash over the line to give the Mariners a glimmer of hope. Just three minutes later the Army Referee lost his patience with constant RAF indiscipline and sent one of their backs to the sin bin. Paul ‘Sabs’ Saberton didn’t take long to exploit the space and sniff out the tryline to score in the right corner and bring the Navy within a converted try of victory.

An incredible team effort saw the Mariners play at a hundred miles per hour until Vallender found the try line just to right of the posts and the Captain slotted the conversion to take the lead, much to the delight of the ecstatic Navy crowd who were convinced that time must have expired. But in a cruel twist the referee said that due to the many injury breaks that four minutes remained to play and now it was the RAF playing last ditch rugby. And they found a gap on the wing, breaking through with just a man to beat but the last Mariner put in a big hit. But it was judged to be high which allowed Corporal Phil Thomas to take a final shot at goal. Considering the poor kicking display through the day the Navy were hopeful that the touchline kick would be missed but the RAF’s full back cooly slotted the penalty to end the Navy’s amazing comeback.

Just after the Vultures lifted the match trophy a disappointed Head Coach Andy Vance was left wondering how his side had lost the match. He was quick to praise the awesome effort of both teams but ultimately was aghast at the number of mistakes his side had made early in the game which allowed the RAF to take an 18 point lead. Finding the positives he said “When the team executed the game plan they played some brilliant rugby; if we can produce the performance we are capable of against the Army, and win by more than 5, we can still be Inter Service Champions. Today’s short term frustration is balanced with slightly longer term optimism.’

The Royal Navy Mariners have one more warm match before they take on the Army at Aldershot on the 29th of April.

1 POET John (RNAS Culdrose)
2 POET Bingham (HMS Dauntless)
3 PO Kewn (MCSU)
4 PO Heffernan (HMS Forward)
5 POAET Lamsin (RNAS Culdrose)
6 SLt Bodel (HMS Sultan)
7 CPOAET James (RNAS Yeovilton)
8 CSgt Valemei (45 Cdo)
9 CPOAET Cox (846 NAS)
10 Lt Smallbone (MOD Abbey Wood)
11 Cpl Tabanivesi (45 Cdo)
12 Cpl Parsons (MAB 6)
13 Sgt Vallender (DHU)
14 AB Fraser (HMS Queen Elizabeth)
15 LAET Saberton (RNAS Culdrose) (C)
16 LA Ellor (HMS Queen Elizabeth)
17 POAET Erne (HMS Sutan)
18 CPOAET Thompson (
19 Lt Scovell (DMS Whittington)
20 POET Junior (HMS Queen Elizabeth)
21 PO Parsell (MA6 Portsmouth)
22 LAET Campbell (814 NAS)
23 AB Sadole (HMS Queen Elizabeth)

View the full Match Gallery here