A baker’s dozen for the Mariners
The Royal Navy Rugby Union Mariners welcomed local lads, Portsmouth RFC Veterans, to Burnaby Road in the next match on their road to the Inter Service competition commencing in April. Portsmouth worked hard for the whole 80 minutes but it was the Mariners who dominated throughout, running in 13 tries for a final score of 73 - 7.
The Royal Navy Rugby Union Mariners were able to select a strong side for the fixture, but a short notice loss of Dane Smallbone left a big gap in the side at 10, but Ollie James stepped up in the hour of need to play his first Mariners game at fly half, which created a space for Iffy Kava to join Alan Sullivan in the centre. Andy Vance started from the bench to allow Paul Saberton some running space from the full back position. The Pack had rotation changes so the Training Support Group could work on the best combinations in all positions, and an all Welsh front row waited on the bench to replace John Court, Richard England and Keith Lister. John Lamsin and Marsh Cormack formed the second row once again after missing the Cardiff game due to work commitments all captained and lead by Chris 'Sumo' Thompson.
The game started at a fast pace with both sides putting in some strong tackles around the ruck area, but with James at 10 some tactical kicking put the Mariners into some good areas of the field. However a bit of over excitement with ball carrying gave the ball back to Portsmouth who at every opportunity opted not to kick and ran the ball back.
It only took 5 minutes for the Mariners to score. Bryan Milford was on the end of a driving mall to score out wide 5 - 0. From the restart some slick handling from the Mariners' backs created space for Dean Fenton on the wing to score in his corner 10 - 0 then 2 minutes later Fenton added another. This time Saberton converted 17 - 0. The Mariners were on a roll! Cormack and Lamsin were dominating in the lineouts which gave the pack a fantastic platform to drive towards the line. This time team captain Chris Thompson carried over the line to make the score 22 - 0. Soon after Saberton created his own space with his fast and jinksy turns to score under the posts, with the conversion added the Mariners stretched their lead to 29 - 0. Portsmouth never dropped their heads, they created space around the ruck areas and at times exposed the lines and defence, but well-read cover tackles stopped them in their tracks. Jjust before half time James kicked to the corner, Lamsin was highest and gathered the ball for a strong drive which Thompson directed from the back which gave him the space to score his brace and another conversion from Saberton made the score 36 - 0 at half time.
At the start of the second half the Mariners made two changes, but this seemed to confuse them a little as from the restart Portsmouth had a scrum from a Mariners' knock on and they chose to go down the blind side, with the ruck formed Portsmouth Number 7 picked the ball up and dummied 2 Mariners' defenders to score under the posts 36 - 7.
The Mariners responded immediately with some strong carrying from James at 10, Richard England was close in support and scored in the corner, quickly followed by Iffy Kava and the scoreboard read 46 - 7. The roll continued with Thomas Boyce following up with some direct strong runs bowling over the Portsmouth players on his way to score, Mel Melhuish spotted a gap from the 9 position to sneak under the radar to add to the score 56 - 7. Throughout the half Portsmouth tackled and carried hard but the Mariners were able keep them at bay. James was having a great game and another attack gave him the space to score under the posts, Andy Peel converted 63 - 7. James again broke the line and with a fine pass wide Andy Vance didn't break his stride to score an entertaining and classy try 68 - 7. In the dying minutes of the game Vance cleared the Mariners line, Dan Lockey gave chase and a mistake from the Portsmouth full back allowed him the opportunity to dive onto the ball for the final score of the game 73 - 7 at Full Time.
The match was played in the best of spirits with the score line not truly reflecting the game. Portsmouth tested the Mariners in all aspects, they carried well and at times broke the gain line. The Team Management now have some hard decisions to make on squad selection for the Inter Services when the Mariners play the RAF at Kneller Hall on the 20th April.
The RNRU would like to thank Portsmouth RFC Vets on their ability to provide a team for the Mariners to play after the short notice cancellation of the planned fixture against the Mighty Oaks, who were unable to travel due to a back log of fixtures and player unavailability.
The Mariners now have a rest before their last warm up game prior to the Inter Service championship against the Torbay Sharks on 11th April at Paignton RFC 1930 KO.
Team List: C Thompson (team captain), T Boyce, J Court, A Peel, A Vance, B Milford, D Lockey, D Fenton, I Kava, J Bola, J Lamsin, M Cormack, M Smith, O Dugmore, O James, P Mortensen, P Saberton, R England, R Jones, S Hillman, J Melhuish, K Lister, M Pollard, J Moult, A Sullivan.
Words: Guy Pallett
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton