Mariners get the better of the Sharks!
In their final warm up match of the season, the Royal Navy Rugby Union Mariners travelled to Paignton to take on the Torbay Sharks. It was to be a great test ahead of the Inter Service competition with the Mariners securing a narrow victory over the home side 21 - 19.
While the weather conditions for the match where near perfect, no amount of thanks can be given to Mr Nick Bodnar of Paignton RFC for painstakingly preparing what was an unplayable pitch. Six hours prior to kick off alternative venues were being sourced but though sheer dogged determination he made the playing surface suitable, ensuring the game could take place.
Seen as the toughest pre-Inter Service competition fixture and best measure of preparedness, the Torbay Sharks always provide a stern test ahead of the IS campaign and they didn't fail to live up to their reputation.
From the outset both sides stated their intent, solid set pieces and probing runs from the backs saw stiff resistance in defence however, it was the Sharks who seemed to gain the early upper hand, only to be let down by the finish. The first blow was made after 17 mins, a surging Shark’s drive, then quick release and a missed tackle gave space to allow the Sharks' right wing (Peter Chart) to score. It was converted successfully by Matt Jackson for the Sharks to take the lead 7 - 0.
The Mariners were not going to rest easy, surging runs from the entire pack, epitomised by Lamsin, started to generate front-foot football. Mardell seized on this and whilst releasing the potent back line, solid resistance was felt. However, the pressure was eventually converted into points as an infringement at the breakdown (21 mins) gave a penalty to the Mariners with which Saberton added 3 points.
Building in confidence the Mariners started to build phases of play and took the game forward at their pace, whilst the dogged defence remained steadfast. Surging runs from the centre pairing of James and Sullivan, and some excellent mauling saw the Mariners deep in to the Shark’s territory. With momentum building but a solid defence resisting something had to give, as the Mariners continued to pile on the pressure a further infringement at the breakdown (33 mins) by the Sharks lead to another penalty. Again Saberton was successful Sharks 7 - 6 Mariners.
With the Mariners in clear ascendancy, the Sharks' defence was sublime, thundering blow followed another, but Court, Lamsin and Smith never sat down, brutal contests gave the backs opportunity to display their silky skills, only to be met by scything tackles and a fiercely contested breakdown. The momentum of the Mariners was suppressed when a piece of beautiful individual skill saw the Shark’s Jackson put a speculative kick in, and left-wing Broadsmith pounced on a bouncing ball to run in from 30m out (37 mins). A nicely stuck conversion saw the Sharks take a 14 - 6 lead.
In spite of further brutal collisions in attack and defence, savage blows were traded by both sides, neither wanting to concede ahead of the break. At half time the scoreboard read Sharks 14 - 6 Mariners. There were changes at 9 (Saberton for Meluish) and 13 (Sullivan for Lockey).
As the first half ended, the second continued, both teams exchanging significant blows. A missed penalty (46 mins) by Jackson saw the Mariners take the initiative, Lamsin continued to prove his strength and guile, sublime offloads and excellent support play culminated in him crashing over the line after a well worked lineout and drive, try (48 mins). With Saberton off the park, Fentum stepped up to take the conversion but it missed 14 - 11.
Further substitutions by the Mariners saw Lamsin and Smith take a well-earned rest being replaced by Cormack and Milford respectively. Under more persistent pressure from the Mariners, the Sharks conceded a penalty again (58 mins) however, whilst still trying to align his kicking slippers, the kick drifted wide of the posts. 14 - 11.
Sensing that an upset could be on the cards and now starting to play with real confidence, the Mariners got possession of the ball around the half way line and some very skilful inter-play saw Pollard in space 30m out. A devastating turn of pace caught most by surprise and with only the full back to beat Pollard elected for route one and crashed over the line to score a fine try (61 mins). Fentum's conversion was successful 14 - 18.
The next substitutions saw Jones and Court replaced by White and Moult. Going in to the final quarter of the game, neither side looked like fading but it was the Sharks who took their opportunities and after a break down the left wing, some excellent cover tackling, the Mariners defence was stretched thin. Keeping pace on the ball and a set of forwards marauding it was only a matter of time and eventually the Sharks second row Harvey got over the line (67 mins), conversion missed. Sharks 19 - 18 Mariners.
The final 10 minutes of the game saw no let up from either side but it was the Royal Navy Rugby Union Mariners who had the last say on the score board. Clever game management saw the ball put in to the corner however, a nervous lineout saw the ball lost but an infringement was spotted by the officials and a penalty awarded to the Mariners. Fentum, having now calibrated his boots, stepped up and scored under tremendous pressure (74 mins) to take the lead Sharks 19 - 21 Mariners. Playing to the final whistle, both sides traded blows to no avail. The RNRU Mariners won 21 - 19. It had been an excellent test ahead of what will be a tough Inter Service campaign, thanks go to the Torbay Sharks for a really competitive fixture. The Mariners are next in action against the RAF Vultures at Kneller Hall Friday 20 April KO 1300.
Team list: 1. Dugmore, 2. Jones, 3. Court, 4. Pollard, 5. Lamsin, 6. Mortensen, 7. Volaisaya, 8. Smith, 9. Saberton, 10. Mardle, 11. Bola, 12. James, 13. Sullivan, 14. Fentum, 15. Vance, 16. White, 17. Moult, 18. Cormack, 19. Milford, 20. Melhuish, 21. Lockey.
Words: Jon Holroyd
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © Mark Andrews