Mariners Take Another Step Forward with their Inter Service Preparations
HM Prison Service
The Royal Navy Mariners backed up their win over Taunton with an impressive performance and deserved victory over HM Prison Service at Burnaby Road. The 21-15 win was a squad effort and in club captain, Jamie Phillips’ absence, Guy Pallett led the side by example and must have been impressed with the number of players pressing their cases to make the Inter Service squad. With only one more preparation match to go, against Torbay Sharks, the Mariners are lifting their performances at just the right time.
First impressions can be deceiving. The Mariners started the game hesitant, sluggish and prone to too many unforced errors. Consequently HM Prison Service found it easy to monopolise possession and the omens did not look good. However as the first ten minutes passed the Mariners seemed to find their composure and get a toehold in the game. First through some controlled, tight, driving play and then through their backline they began to exert some pressure of their own. A couple of half chances and line breaks clearly lifted their confidence and their game benefitted from an increase in tempo and better clear out at the tackle.
The opening score came, surprisingly, from a Navy scrum, which was the one area of the game that the home team were still struggling with. From the retreating scrum, number 8 Matanatabu Tomasi broke right and scythed through the first up defence before standing up the cover defender and setting right wing, Halofaki Samuela, clear for the opening try. Dean Fentum made no mistake with the conversion and Mariners led 7-0.
The lead was doubled almost immediately from the restart. Again it was the Mariners willingness to attack from deep. This time it was Sammy Halofaki who made the break, which was as much from necessity as planned, as he received man and ball following a lofted, looping hospital pass. Having side stepped out of the first contact his outside break opened up the way to the goal line and though he was checked by the covering full back a sublime inside pass found the impressive Max Boyce who cruised in under the posts for the Mariners second try. Fentum again landed the conversion.
Ironically HMP’s opening score came at a time when the Mariners were still playing some very good rugby. A long clearance kick was collected deep in his own half by their powerful outside centre who chose a good line and broke through a two man tackle. With the cover defence still not back in position from the earlier play he had a clear run to the line and HM Prison Service were back in the game 14-7. Within a couple of minutes it was 14-12 as following a quickly taken penalty the Navy Mariners were caught napping, by the same centre, and conceded a soft try.
With no further score the Mariners were probably a little disappointed with the half time score and on balance deserved a healthier lead. However they should be very disappointed with the start to the second half where a needless penalty for offside gave HM Prison Service an early opportunity to take the lead. With the Mariners a little at sixes and sevens the HMP team were soon on the attack and the Mariners looked distinctly shaky in defence. Ironically the one area of their game that started the second half well was the scrummage, which had failed to fire at all during the first forty.
With ten minutes of the half gone it was as if a flick was switched. First the Mariners defence suddenly found some line speed. Where tackles had been missed they were now completed and the HM Prison Service ball carriers now found themselves driven back or held up in the maul for the turnover. Around the fringes Mariners were coming on to the ball hard and making ground. This allowed the backs some space in which to attack. From lineouts the Mariners were able to set up their driving maul and this was soon making twenty metres at a time as the forwards drove hard through the heart of the HM Prison Service defence.
From the side line it was a joy to watch and it was only a matter of time before the Mariners were going to get their third try. In the end it was Max Boyce who crossed the line following a passage of play where Glen Cuthbert kept the tempo high and the Mariners forwards cleared the tackle zone with precision to prevent the ball being slowed down. In the end despite winning a turnover HMP could not clear their lines under pressure as Daku ran the ball back and then gifted Boyce his second try. On another day the Mariners may well have scored a couple more but it was not to be. And though the match finished with HMP on the attack, deep in the Mariners half, it was pleasing that the defence had kept up the ferocity they had discovered earlier in the half. A forced turnover brought the final whistle, a 21-15 victory but as importantly an overall solid performance.
With Torbay next up on 8th April there are still areas of the Mariners game they need to work on but when they play with tempo and when they defend with line speed and numbers they look a very accomplished team. There will be some hard selections ahead for the coaching staff but the Mariners performances are steadily improving and hopefully will be on the money when the side travel to take on the RAF Vultures at RAF Halton on 15th April.
Mariners squad: Brian Milford, Ed Adams, Brian Stokes, Aidan Riley, Martyn Watkins, Guy Pallett (Capt), Rob Jones, Andy Holmes, Dean Fentum, Gordon Howells, Gav Rule, Mike Colvin, Glen Cuthbert, Matanatabu Tomasi, Laliono Lemeki, Marisio Kuriuci, Will Jerrold, Keith Lister, Halofaki Samuela, Joshua Taubale, Laisiasa Daku, Thomas Boyce, Gary Ibbotson, Neil Fitzpatrick, Vuniani Bainitabua, Russ Sayer.
Images Alligin Photography / © G Ashton Jones