HMS Ocean Return for Rematch in Bahrain
HMS Ocean v Bahrain RFC
This was the second time HMS Ocean’s rugby team have taken to the field in Bahrain during their 'Tour of the Gulf' however this was not the fixture that was initially planned. Ocean was scheduled to play Doha but due to unforeseen circumstances the fixture had to be cancelled but fortunately a last minute game was arranged against Bahrain.
Ocean arrived just before sunset, on a much cooler Bahraini night than it had been the first time they had met, to witness the Bahraini fly-half kicking field goals for fun from the half way line! It was clear that Ocean’s defence would have to be on their best behaviour if they didn’t want to fall victim to a big defeat by giving away silly penalties during the game.
It was a very different Ocean team to the one that had played during the previous encounter. The visitors, all in black, kicked off against a very similar Bahrain team, mainly in white. Both sides were out for a win as the first game had ended in a draw. Both sides were hungry to be named the victor.
The first ten minutes of the game saw both sides making some strong runs at each others defence to see if there was a weak link in the armour, though neither side found one, and this continued for the better part of the opening period. It wasn’t until a well-worked lineout from Ocean fed the back line and, with a great dummy line from Ocean’s danger man at full-back, Corporal Greg “Shrimp” Haywood, that a gap opened up in the strong Bahraini defensive back line. Centre, Engineering Technician Stu Carhart (in his first game for Ocean), ran from the halfway line handing off covering defenders, to the Bahraini five metre line before being brought down. Nevertheless quick thinking from the big man and great communication from his centre partner, Engineering Technician Sam Faulkner (also in his first game for Ocean), saw Carhart pop the ball off from the tackle and all Faulkner had to do was dot the ball down to open the score board for the visitors. Now they say things happen in threes, and the slotted conversion proved just that, coming from a third 'Stoker', Engineering Technician Joe Coughlin, to make the score 0 - 7 Ocean.
Now Ocean had their rhythm, and with Bahrain unable to match them in the lineouts, Ocean started to unroll their game plan. With every penalty Bahrain gave away Ocean kicked for territory feeling confident that the relationship between hooker, Leading Airman Ethan 'Barny' Barnaschone, and, filling in at lock, Leading Airman Chris 'Cinders' Ellor, could win the ball back every time. This was the basis of Ocean’s second try. From an Ocean lineout five metres out from the Bahrain try line safely won, and with the rolling maul, also led by 'Cinders' the ball found its way to the hands of 'Barny' who grounded it. Joe Coughlin, who had stepped up to fly-half from centre for this game, repeated his first effort from the kicking tee to make the score 0 - 14 Ocean.
However Bahrain stuck to their game plan with strong hard runs from their bigger men trying to break down the Ocean defence, yet credit to all of the Ocean team, not a single weak link was found. Bahrain had to settle with a penalty, from the tackler not releasing in front of Ocean’s posts, to put their first points on the board. The Bahrain fly-half made the easy kick to make the score 3 – 14 Ocean.
Ocean, not wanting Bahrain to get their tails up, were quick to put pressure on after the kick-off and were awarded a penalty from a Bahrain player not releasing in a tackle. Coughlin coolly sent the ball into touch, roughly where Ocean had driven over for a try not ten minutes before. Now to say "If it's not broken don’t fix it" in rugby terms could be seen as a boring way to play but Ocean were determined to go into the half time break clear leaders. In what seemed like an action replay of Ocean’s second try, Ocean won their own lineout though the partnership of 'Cinders and Barny' and with Bahrain unable to stop the rolling maul, it was once again 'Barny' who found himself over the try line as the Ocean pack dominated their opposite numbers. However Coughlin missed his kick this time, the ball sailing wide of the posts, extending Ocean's lead to 3 - 19.
With only a few minutes of the first half left the Ocean team were determined to keep up their great defensive work for the whole forty minutes of the half. However a knock on from the kick off gave the ball back to Bahrain and with every contact the Bahrain team made they seemed to get closer and closer to the Ocean try line. Nonetheless Ocean still didn't miss a tackle, although for the first time in the game they were not winning the contact area, and after some good phase play for the home side it looked like they would be rewarded for their efforts. But it was the teamwork of 'Barny' and 'Cinders' who managed to keep the ball held up. Scrum down Bahrain ball. Until now Bahrain hadn’t lost one of their scrums, but a super human effort from the Ocean pack secured the ball and kicked it out to end this extremely physical first half. The half time score was Bahrain 3 – 19 Ocean.
The second half started just as ferociously as the first, with both sides keen to continue using their strong runners and link up play in and out of the tackles. It was at this point that Bahrain’s young full-back decided to try something new by kicking the ball deep into Ocean’s twenty-two only to find Stu Carhart in miles of space, with not one single white shirt in his path. As the fearless ‘Stoker’ started off on his run up field you could see the eyes of the tired ‘Vets’ in the Bahrain pack looking at the young full-back who was trying as hard as he could to, at first chase his kick, then try to chase down Carhart. All efforts were in vain as the big ‘Stoker’s’ pace was too much for anyone who tried to make a covering tackle, and Carhart went over for a well deserved solo effort. Joe Coughlin found his kicking boots once more to make the score, 3 – 26.
Credit is due to the Bahrain side who never gave up and continuously pushed Ocean back to their own try line with phase after phase. In one of these many phases Ocean’s team captain Naval Airman Tom Matanatabu suffered a head injury and had to leave the field for the blood bin. Ocean saw this as a good time to make changes, using their two forward replacements of Baillie and Waters and four backs of Lawrence, Stigle, Wood and Prendergast.
The rest of the second half became very scrappy with Bahrain showing a love for this type of rugby much to the dissatisfaction of the visitors, and it wasn’t long before Bahrain kicked a penalty close the Ocean five metre line. With the lineout taken well the Bahrain pack drove the ball on to within a metre of Ocean’s line but with some unbreakable Ocean maul defence Bahrain couldn’t reach the try line. They shipped the ball wide where they had built an overlap after sucking in Ocean’s defence around the maul, managing to score in the corner. The kick was successful making the score 10 – 26.
Bahrain now were the dominant team and Ocean really had to dig deep to stop them scoring again for the remainder of the second half. With countless try saving tackles made, the Bahrain team thought it wouldn’t be long before they would score, but would they be able to score three times in the last ten minutes of the game to steal the win? Again they were awarded a penalty and again kicked for the corner five metres out. The lineout was won and the charge for the line followed, only this time the tired legs of the Ocean pack were helpless to stop the power of the Bahrain forwards who drove over in the corner. The Bahrain fly-half made the kick look easy to make the score 17 -26.
With less than ten minutes left on the clock, Ocean’s team manager Ollie Dugmore sent Tom Matanatabu and Leading Engineering Technician Loui Fecci back onto the field to try and regain the control both players had shown and the gamble paid off. Ocean quickly regained the ball off their own restart and with Loui controlling the plods running off the rucks and Tom’s fresh legs making yards in the contact area the clock soon counted down. However Bahrain came away with the ball, in what was later known as the last play of the game, whipped the ball wide for their winger to try to run the length of the field, only to pass the ball marginally forward as the cover tackle came in from Logistician Stigle. With that the full time whistle blew, ending a very fierce and physical game of rugby. The final score Bahrain 17 – 26 Ocean.
Ocean’s team captain Tom Matanatabu said “I told the boys from the off, just keep saying to yourself, 'We go again' and keep telling yourself that if we are scoring tries, or having tries scored against us, 'We go again'."
Ocean’s Director of Rugby added “It was great to come away with the win, especially after the frustration of a draw last time."
Ocean would like to thank Bahrain Rugby for hosting them at very short notice, and also thank Ocean players Kyle Mason, Joe Staniforth, Dom Taylor and Mark Owen for the service they have given the team over the past three months and wish them all the best for the upcoming RNRU Senior XV training camp.
Tries (4) – Faulkner, Barnaschone (2), Carhart
Cons (3) – Coughlin (3)
Ocean Team List: - Barlow, Barnaschone, Cozens, Ellor, Bourne, McArdle, Jones, Matanatabu (C), Fecci, Coughlin, Scott, Carhart, Faulkner, Baisden, Haywood.
Subs – Baillie, Waters, Prendergast, Lawrence, Stigle, Wood.
Team Manger – PO(CS) Ollie Dugmore
H2O Technician – Lt Stu Lewis
Man of the Match went to Engineering Technician Stu Carhart.
Words by 'Cinders' Ellor.
Images Crown Copyright LPhot Hall