Mariners Literally Blown Away
On the back of two wins the Royal Navy Mariners were optimistic of a third against Taunton RFC. Due to a backlog of fixtures, Taunton were unavailable to play and after a quick scrabble around the TSG came up with HMS Heron as an opposition who were desperate for some game time themselves. One thing the TSG failed with was to reach an accord with Boreas as the north winds were regularly 30 gusting 45 knots.
Conscious of how this would affect both sides the Mariners game plan was to keep the ball close, working pods through the 9/ 10 channel and to not play to the younger team’s strengths. Having lost the toss the Mariners were prepared to meet them head on, though where the ball would land would be anyone’s guess.
Alarmingly the strong choke tackles that worked so effectively against Havant a fortnight before were not having the same effect, as players were bounced off; a combination of incorrect initial body positions at the tackle and the quick feet throughout, the Heron team saw the missed tackle figures mount: an unpleasant theme for the rest of the game.
Having ridden the initial storm the Mariners, by way of a long clearance kick from Mitchell, established themselves at the Heron 10 metre line and using the shortened lineout to good effect with England, Little, Milford and Rees combining well, the Mariners worked the narrow channels. Rucking and clearing out strongly, a strong run from Thompson resulted in quick ball for Dawson and some swift hands saw captain Pallet score in the right corner.
From the kick off and a good take from Milford in the centre of the park, errant hands from Heron saw the ball at their scrum half’s feet. Adopting the Mariners’ tactic of close channel work, Lock Hunt used his considerable power to break through the weak tackles to score under the post making the conversion simple for McGregor.
Only leading by two points Heron again found themselves on the back foot and with the lineout functioning well the Mariners pack took turns recycling the ball to the back of the maul. At the 5 metre line a pod peeled off to the left with Rees, returning from retirement, to score the try. Again the wind did nothing for the conversion attempt.
The scrum is certainly something the Mariners will have to improve upon. Throughout the game the initial strike was solid but without the typically expected dominance, Thompson at 8 was put under extreme pressure to get the ball out. The gain line was rarely broken from this set piece. It was from the resultant ruck of a back-peddling scrum that the ball was recycled by Heron; they ran some strong lines close in, before the Fullback came into the line for centre Hall to score on the right with McGregor again converting from a tight angle.
In the last minute of the half with a scrum in the centre of the field, the ideal attacking position, the Mariners, expecting a kick to touch, were caught flat-footed by an 8 pick and drive. From the loose the first receiver put a speculative kick over the Mariners’ defensive line, which bounced kindly for Hunt to score unmolested the final try of the match. Given the conditions McGregor coped admirably to convert gain.
Half Time: HMS Heron 21 Mariners 10.
With heads held high after the direct team talk and understanding where they were falling off, the Mariners showed significant spirit and drive to hold out an ever expansive Heron side who, running with confidence, were looking for over laps and mismatches which as the game progressed were becoming more obvious. Halted by either some loose handling errors as they looked for the miracle ball or some resolute try saving tackles from the likes of Pallet and Fentum in midfield or from Sayer and then Gore at Fullback, Heron were clearly disappointed not to get a score in the second half.
Injuries began to take their toll as a revamped back line worked doggedly to stop any further incursions but the scrum, a weak aspect in the first half did improve with less pressure on Thompson and later Daku.
In a half strewn with handling errors, both sides will feel that perhaps they could have got more out of the game, particularly for the Mariners when Mardle came on at Stand off, breaking the gain line for the backs to work off. A well deserved win for Heron but the Mariners must believe that they did well to keep up with the Heron team but the basic errors need to be cut out in order to achieve a settled, less frenetic style of play.
On behalf of the TSG, the Mariners would like to express their gratitude and appreciation to HMS Heron who took up the baton at the eleventh hour to the mutual benefit of both sides. Good luck with the rest of season and come support the Mariners against the RAF Vultures (20 Apr) and Army Masters (30 Apr)!
The next match is against HM Prison Service RFC at HMS Temeraire, 23 Mar 16, KO 1900.
Mariners Team: Deane, England, Buckley; Milford, Little; Rees, Pallet, Thompson; Dawson, Mitchell; Campbell-Baldwin, Fentum, Stokes, Rawacce, Sayer.
Replacements: Brown, Holroyd, Gore, Daku, Mardle, Holmes, Dash, Melhuish, Croft.
Article by J Campbell-Baldwin
© Crown Copyright / LPhot Dan Rosenbaum