3 wins in a row for Royal Navy Sharks at Abingdon
Abingdon RUFC 7s Competition
On National Armed Forces Day, the Royal Navy Rugby 7s teams travelled to Abingdon RFC for their annual 7s tournament. The Sharks travelled hoping to retain the cup winners' title which they have held for the last 2 years, and the Stingrays hoping to match them and progress from the group stages.
Both teams assembled at Fort Blockhouse for a day of preparations before travelling to Dalton Barracks where they stayed for the night before the tournament. The Sharks welcomed back Sam Benzie and Marcus Stevens for their first tournament of the season and the Stingrays welcomed Simon Tulakepa, Jonny Stoppard and Sharief Hosny into the squad.
With the tournament being one level of competition, the teams were placed in separate groups of 5 teams and a tough day of rugby was ahead, with the sun beating down hitting 30 degrees it would be a real test of stamina.
Both teams kicked off at the same time; first up for the Stingrays were the Oxford Harlequins, a local side with some good 15s players but they struggled to get to grips with the Stingrays. James O’Rourke led by example scoring the first try after 4 minutes 7 - 0, shortly followed by Markia Tuinabunawa so the score was 12 - 0 at half time. From the restart Jonny Stoppard attacked hard but only scored out wide 19 - 0. The Quins never really settled into the game and further tries from Simon Tulakepa and Ed Holland gave a great result 29 - 0 at full time. The Sharks lined up against Bicester RFC for their first game. Ben Chambers set the tone for the match in the first play, breaking free from the kick off to race under the posts quickly followed by another try within the first minute for a 14 - 0 lead. Craig Duncan showed power to force his way through the Bicester defence for another try before half time 21 - 0. After the break Bicester were blown away with continued pressure from the Sharks' players before Sam Benzie, Troy Goby and Matt Holland rounded off the scoring to finish the game 42 - 0.
The Sharks continued their great form; Chineham Lions were their next victims. Chambers had his brace of tries before 4 minutes had been played and Goby and Duncan followed for a 28 - 0 lead at half time. The pressure in the second half didn't let up, Goby got his hat trick, Duncan got his brace and joining them were Seva Naulago and Rhys Dimmock-Williams notching up an impressive 59 - 0 win. The Stingrays were unfortunately tamed by the Cobras, Adam Gallagher and Marika kept them within touch but a mistake at a breakdown allowed the Cobras to win the game 21-12.
After their defeat in round 2 the Stingrays rallied against the home team, the Abingdon Leopards. Callum Patterson found gaps in the Leopard’s defence to score the first 3 tries but the Leopards responded with a try of their own by their scrum half 19 - 7 in the first half. From the restart Holland (Jr) was strong with the ball in hand 24 - 7, and new player Sharief Hosny kept up the tempo before Gallagher finished off the scoring to win the game 38 - 14. The Sharks maintained their winning streak with the Badgers now lining up against them. With a rotation of the squad Marcus Stevens and Chambers scored early but the Badgers were only one score behind at half time 14 - 5. But in the second half the Sharks used their skill and experience to pull away. Duncan, Holland (Sr), Chambers and Williams capped a fine performance finishing 40 - 5.
With 3 games already played both sides were starting to pick up little injuries but a great medical team lead by Kila O’Boyle assisted the players with their recovery and motivation. The Stingrays faced a strong Racing Club Academy side. It was just before the break that Jaco Myburgh scored the first try after the Racing side had taken a strong lead 7 - 26 at half time. They started the second half just as strong as the first and then Gallagher and Hosny reduced the gap, however Racing were too strong and pulled away to finish the game victorious 19 - 40. Like the Stingrays, a little fatigue must have been kicking in because the Sharks struggled to find form against the Running Bears, with only 1 try scored by Seva in the first half the game, the Bears were the only team to score 2 tries against the Sharks before Seva and Duncan rallied the players to finish the game on top 28 - 12.
With all the group games now finished The Stingrays progressed to the plate semi-final for finishing highest 3rd placed team where they met the Seven Dwarfs. Simon Tulakepa kicked off the scoring with a fine individual try to take the Dwarfs by surprise 7 - 0, but it would not last long as the Dwarfs were able to score 3 tries before the half time whistle 7 - 17. Holland (Jr) got a score within 5 minutes of the second half but that was not enough as the Dwarfs scored twice more before Holland (Jr) bagged another to finish the game and their journey in the tournament as the Stingrays went down 19 - 31.
The Sharks finished top of their group and progressed to the cup semi-final where they were pitted against the Cobras who had already beaten the Stingrays earlier in the day. Goby and James Griggs both scored a brace, supplemented with efforts from Duncan and Williams to progress to the final 36 - 10 victors and the chance of defending their current title.
For the second time the Sharks faced High Wycombe Green Dragons in the cup final at Abingdon RUFC. The first half was a close affair; Benzie scored first with a bursting run through the line to take the lead 7 - 0 but all was not right as High Wycombe found space and time on the ball and carried in to contact hard disjointing the tight defence of the Sharks. It was the opposition who scored 2 well-worked tries to take a 7 - 12 lead into half time. Coach Sili Buinimasi had some words of encouragement at the break and the team rallied, Goby from the restart found space to even the score 12 - 12. With the ball being passed back from the restarts High Wycombe never saw that ball for the next 7 minutes they defended well which kept the score down but further tries from Griggs, Holland (Sr) and Duncan resulted in a great win and the retention of the cup for the 3rd year in a row. Final score 31 - 12.
Both teams had a great day at Abingdon RFC where the level of competition is growing from year to year. The Stingrays are ever improving with new players being given a platform to play against established 7s team to develop their skills. The Sharks are going from strength to strength. The games they play are never easy, they learn and adapt from game to game. The top 3 try scorers for the day from the Sharks were Duncan 8, Goby 7 and Chambers with 6, and the Stingrays were Holland (Jr) 4, Patterson 3.
Both teams are next in action at North Dorset RFC on Saturday 21st July.
S Benzie(vice captain), B Chambers, C Duncan, T Goby, J Griggs, B Jeacock, M Holland, S Naulago (team captain), R Williams, M Stevens.
A Gallagher, D Heming, E Holland, J Myburgh, J O’Rourke (team captain), C Patterson, B Roden, J Stoppard, S Tulakepa, M Tuinabunawa, S Hosny.
Words: Guy Pallett
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton