Mariners Impressive Display Leaves Vultures in a Flap
The Royal Navy Mariners are clearly not an early morning team. A sluggish start to the game, which kicked off at 10:30, allowed the Vultures to exert some pressure but as the sun rose in the sky and the muscles warmed through so the Mariners game lifted. By then end of the match they were well in control and playing their best rugby of the season as they ran in five tries for a 39-15 victory in the opening round of the 2015 Inter Service Championship.
It was the RAF Vultures who started the game better yet it was the Mariners who were first on the scoreboard. Having absorbed some early pressure and watched two Vultures kicks at goal being pushed wide the Royal Navy Mariners finally got into gear and were able to maintain some possession without conceding soft penalties. Twice they worked themselves up the pitch to get in to scoring positions that allowed flyhalf Paul Clark to land a penalty and then narrowly miss with a drop goal attempt.
Up front the forwards were finding their mojo and it was through the scrum that they started to take control of the game. Mark Lister, Josh Taubale and John Court were simply immense in the Mariners front row and began to regularly shunt the Vultures pack backwards. It was from two such scrums that the Mariners scored their first try. At the first, a RAF put in, the pack won a penalty and then opted for the 5m scrum. Number 8, Chris ‘Sumo’ Thompson, was given an armchair ride as the pack drove the Vultures back over their own line for Thompson to score and with Paul Clark landing the conversion the Mariners had eased to a 10-0 lead.
They will be disappointed with their play after taking control of the game, as the Royal Navy Mariners let the Vultures back in to the game, aided by a Yellow Card awarded against Max Boyce for a high tackle. A try and a penalty levelled the scores at 10-10 but proved to be the wake up call the Mariners required. With only a few minutes of the half remaining they upped their game and through their pressure won another very kickable penalty which Paul Clark duly converted to give the Mariners a deserved, albeit narrow 13-10 half time lead.
The second half was a very different story with the Royal Navy in total control. The pack remained dominant and only unforced errors by the visitors were keeping the Vultures in the game. Having spilled the ball to squander a gilt edge try scoring chance, Laisiasa Daku soon made amends when from another strong scrum he popped up to break the defending tackle for the Royal Navy’s second try which Clark again converted.
Even a second yellow card conceded, this time for a tip tackle by Mark Lister, did not allow the Vultures back in to the game. With the midfield pairing of Max Boyce and Jamie Phillips solid in defence, assisted by the industrious Will Jerrold at flanker, the RAF resorted to kicking for territory where Russ Sayer and Sam Halofaki were on hand to run the ball back and regularly find off loads for the strong running forward drives from Sumo Thompson, Mark Pollard and Josh Taubale. Big holes were being created in the RAF Vultures defence and it was only a matter of time before more Royal Navy scores came.
With Glen Cuthbertson now bossing the game from scrum half, Paul Clark found he had more time and space at flyhalf. Having regularly teased the RAF defence with his kicking game he spotted a gap and split the defence with a sharp inside break. The forwards produced quick ruck ball for Cuthberton again to provide the link and captain Jamie Phillips to score, extending the Mariners lead to 25-10.
The Mariners were now on the rampage and having secured the match through their tight play the forwards now began offloading before contact and making great yardage through their inter passing game. The Vultures had no answer and first it was hooker, Josh Taubale, who crossed before Guy Pallet was worked free to run in from thirty metres. With Clark landing only one conversion and the RAF Vultures producing a consolation try at the end, the final score was a well deserved 39-15 victory through an impressive second half display.
The Mariners will be able to travel to Kneller Hall with plenty of confidence but with another 10:30 kick off will need to ensure they start better than against the RAF. The forwards will again need to front up to the Army pack and provide the foundations from which the Mariners can build their game. Against the Vultures there were a number of stand out performances but ultimately it was the front row who provided the platform for this win and from the dark recesses of tight head prop, John Court emerged as man of the match. His lineout work was excellent as was his scrummaging and yet he still found time to carry and eek out the hard yards around the fringes of the ruck.
The Royal Navy Mariners play the Army Master at Kneller Hall, 9 May 2015. KO 10:30 and entry is by Army Navy ticket.
Mariners Team: Mark Lister, Josh Taubale, Mark Pollard, Aidan Riley, Will Jerrold, Gary Pallet, Chris Thompson, Glen Cuthbertson, Paul Clark, Laisiasa Daku, Thomas Boyce, Jami Phillips, Sam Halofaki, Russ Sayer
Replacements: Jim Brown, Brian Milford, Wilf Rees, Wayne Dawson, Dean Fentum, Paul Clark, Chris Gore
Alligin Photography / © G Ashton Jones