Decisive start to the season for the Mariners
On an evening that was better suited to kite-surfing ducks (strong winds and plenty of rain), the inaugural game of the Mariners' 2018 season produced some sublime open rugby despite the adverse conditions, and notched up the first of hopefully many wins for the Royal Navy Rugby Union Veterans!
The Mariners 25-man squad, a good mix of seasoned players and 'new' blood, took to the field against a strong Devonport Services RFC team and although the early stages favoured the locals, the Mariners showed tremendous fight, rapidly forming in to a cohesive unit and playing with the confidence of a weekend club team.
With a solid and front-footed defence holding back several powerful surges from the Devonport Services side, a moment of brilliance and fleet-footed skill saw the Mariners' fullback, Saberton, pick up the ball on his own 5 metre line from a turn over, slice through the opposition defence. Two perfectly executed passes in quick succession then saw the illusive Hillman cross the line as the Mariners drew first blood to take the lead 5 - 0.
Growing in confidence as the match progressed, the pack exerted their influence on the game and Mardell began to run the lines of attack and manage the game with aplomb. Steadfast Devonport Services' defence held for much of the half as the Mariners continued to probe with several bullocking runs from the pack and centre pairing.
It was definitely not one-way traffic; Devonport Services created many chances of their own however the Mariners' defence proved impregnable. The final blow of the half was dealt by the Mariners with a move not too dissimilar to the first try. Saberton cut some sublime lines, managed a perfectly timed off-load to Fentum to score the second try of the night. Saberton added the conversion to end a very encouraging half with a 12 - 0 lead for the Mariners.
As the changes started, normally an Achilles heel, no drop in performance was evident and now with the wind in the Mariners' favour the second half stage was set. Similarly to the first half, much of the final forty minutes was a battle of attrition. Not necessarily utilising the 30kts wind advantage to its optimum, both teams elected to play open rugby.
The Mariners seized the initiative with their third score, after another flowing move and good inter-play between forwards and backs, the ball was spun out wide for replacement centre, Sullivan, to crash over the line, with Saberton landing the conversion to extend the Mariners' lead 19 - 0.
The last quarter of this hard-played game saw an unrelenting Devonport Services team dig deep and after a penalty 10 metres out the persistent forward waves eventually breached the Mariners' defences for a try. With four minutes left to play, a largely carbon-copy of their first try followed with Devonport Services once again probing the fringes and with the last play of the game they breached the Mariners' defences again. This time the conversion was scored for a very respectable final score 19 - 12.
Considering the vile weather conditions, this entertaining encounter provided some excellent entertainment for the crowd who, by now, had lamented bringing umbrellas and more so using them! Thanks go to the match officials who attempted to allow open rugby to be played and to the ever reliable adversary who always make this fixture a challenging encounter.
The Mariners are now looking forward to travelling to HMS Heron on the 31 January 18 for their second match of the season.
Team: Cozens, White, Kewn, Thurston, Cormack (Captain), Lochhead, Hillman, Mortensen, Dawson, Mardle, Valemi, James, Fentum, Boyce, Saberton, Cava, England, Sullivan, Moult, Deane, Matanababa, Perberdy, Lockey, West, Stokes.
Words by Jon Holroyd
Images RNRU © Mark Andrews