Mariners Struggle to Keep Calm and Carrion against the Vultures
The RAF Vultures stopped scoring by the 60th minute but by that time it was too late for the Mariners to produce a comeback. Losing 32 – 3 will be a bitter pill to swallow particularly as they had begun to play an expansive form of rugby in the build up to the first veterans’ Inter Service fixture of 2017. The expectations of both players and TSG never quite materialised on the day against an intelligent RAF side.
In front of a growing crowd, the Mariners were forced back into their 22 from the first kick of the game and there they remained until after 10 minutes, during which time Milford left the pitch to be patched up, as the RAF stand off, Dunn ran a wrap around and ignoring the overlap scampered over the line for the first points of the day.
Playing conservative rugby the Mariners ran four phases with clean ball at the breakdown but with no yardage gained for their efforts and quickly the game was back in RAF control. A kick to touch, using the downhill and downwind advantage following a Mariners’ infringement saw a text book lineout and a driving maul; the maul just about stopped, seeing a gaping hole the Vultures’ strong running winger Gallanders took to the short side to crash over. From an acute angle and with apparent ease Dunn slotted the conversion as well.
Approaching half time the RAF 10 had two more successful kicks at goal. The first, converting the try scored by Kirwan a willing recipient as the last man of a 3 man overlap; the second a penalty after a deemed high tackle by Boyce. At 22 – 0 going in to the half time break the Mariners finally had an opportunity to get some points on the board but the ball rebounded off the upright from Satala’s long distance kick; the audible groans from the side line summed up the Mariners’ first half performance as no-one was following up to take advantage.
Some strong running from the centre pairing of Boyce and Vallender showed there was still some fight in the Mariners though continuity failed them as both runs were unsupported and the isolated man turned over. Attacking uphill in the second half did not slow the airmen as scrum half Spain took advantage of some sloppy defending to score after another drive after the lineout. Down to 14 men for a high tackle from fullback Greenwood the Royal Navy saw an opportunity to cash in on the man advantage and ring the changes. Fidock came on for Melhuish at scrum half and the rub of the green went all too briefly to the Mariners as Satala finally got some points with a finely converted penalty.
A moment of over exuberance led to an exchange between Fidock and the RAF reserve flanker which saw both men invited to take a 10 minute respite. And so to the final score of the game at the start of the last quarter where the Vultures showed how good they were with well-timed passes between forwards and backs saw not a hand laid on the ball carrier until Valemie overmatched on his left wing flew up and took his man down but not before the ball was released in the tackle for RAF 14 to add to his earlier score.
The match ended 32 – 3 and the Mariners will be hurting after such a resounding loss where they appeared to run out of ideas. Against the Army, who have had some good results this season, they will need to up the tempo and reflect the promise they showed earlier in the season.
Having had time to dwell on the result, Paul Mortensen said, “…not a proud day for the Mariners in a mirror image of last year’s fixture. We failed to match their physicality only showing glimpses in the second half of our true potential.”
“Credit to the Royal Air Force, they executed their game plan perfectly. Going forward to the Army game we welcome back some much needed experience with Thompson and Matanabu available for selection. We will put the RAF game behind us and show what being true Mariners is all about.”
The Mariners’ final Inter Services match takes place at Kneller Hall, 29 Apr 17, KO at 1030.
Mariners: Lister, England, Geldard; Riley, Mortensen (c); Milford, Hillman, Smith; Melhuish, Satala; Valemie, Boyce, Vallender, Daku, Sayer.
Replacements: Cozens, Williams , White, Stokes, Fidock, Clark , Fentum, Halofaki.
Words by J Campbell-Baldwin
Images by RNRU © John Walton