Early Injuries Plague Mariners in Loss to Army
Despite patches of dominance the Royal Navy Mariners were defeated by the Army Masters in Aldershot after a number of early injuries in the match.
The Mariners headed up the M3 to Aldershot knowing that a 5 point win against the Army Masters would see them crowned as Inter Service champions, but lady luck did not favour the old men of the sea as injuries plagued a match that was played at such a tempo that at times it resembled a 7s match.
Playing at the home of Army Rugby is never an easy task but a dedicated group of supporters turned up to watch a buoyant Mariners side take on their Army coutnerparts. The signs were ominous within 5 minutes as POET Peter Kewn was forced off the pitch and POAET John Lamsin and PO Phil Parsel joined him in the treatment room shortly after, thus putting an early strain on the RN bench. The Army's first try on 12 minutes saw their fly half put their meaty tighthead prop through a gap and then get the ball back to score a phase later. Another 12 minutes passed until slick Army handling put their left winger into the corner to take a 14 point lead. But the Mariners have shown fight and resiliance all season and PO Joji Volaisaya took advantage of Army Sin Bins and got the RN on the scoreboard cutting the Army's lead to 9 points at half time.
The first twenty minutes of the second half was a tense yet turgid affair with neither team seriously threatening the other but the last 20 minutes flipped the match on it's head. Replacement prop LH Chris 'Cinder's' Ellor finished off a prolonged RN attack to splat across the line in the corner like cream on a Devon scone and bring the Navy within touching distance of the Army, a position that justified the equality of the game up to that point. But the Army hit a purple patch and their Blindside flanker turned playmaker on 3 quick tries from range to give the Army a commanding 31-10 lead.
As they showed against the RAF Vultures the Mariners have developed a never say die attitude, and despite their old weary bodies not being relieved with the planned substitutions they sought a route to victory inspired by their backline. Firstly LAET Paul Saberton broke out of his own 22 and after turning the Army defence inside and out gave an inspired pass to Cpl Jez Parsons to finish a long range effort, and after an equally distant Army response, Sgt Val Valender finished off a sublime looping backs move to score in the corner.
It was now end to end stuff and the Army had the last laugh in a match that proved old men can still offload, goose step, feint and sprint as they turned over a Navy attack on their own 5 metre line before entertaining the crowd with a delightful 95 metre try to make the final score 43-22.
As the tired men in red and blue embraced at the final whistle (after yet more Royal Navy injuries) there was a quiet acknowledgement that a fine performance from both sides had just taken place. After the Army collected their silverware all the players stayed on the pitch and joined arms in a huge circle to sing songs, demonstrating that these vets still play for the love of the game.
1 POET Andrew John (HMS Nelson)
2 POET Rhys Bingham (HMS Dauntless)
3 PO Peter Kewn (MCSU)
4 PO Kieran Heffernan (HMS Forward)
5 POAET John Lamsin (RNAS Culdrose)
6 PO Joji Volaisaya (HMS Queen Elizbeth)
7 CPOAET Oliver James (846 NAS)
8 CSGT Veresa Valemei (45 Cdo)
9 CPO Ryan Cox (846 NAS)
10 CPL Jeremy Parsons (MAB)
11 LAET Colin Campbell (814 NAS)
12 PO Phil Parsell (GIB)
13 SGT Val Valender (DHU)
14 AB Duncan Fraser (HMS Queen Elizabeth)
15 LAET Paul Saberton (RNAS Culdrose) (c)
16 LH Chris Ellor (HMS Queen Elizabeth)
17 POAET Peter Erne (HMS Sultan)
18 CPO Chris Thompson (1710 NAS)
19 LT Cdr Barry Richardson (NSC)
20 POET Kali Junior (HMS Queen Elizabeth)
21 POET Chris Hart (HMS Prince of Wales)
22 PO Kevin Lewis (RNPHQ(W))
23 AB Peleki Sadole (HMS Queen Elizabeth)