Mariners Untidy Win Produces Some Sublime Moments
The Royal Navy Mariners won a high tempo game strewn with errors against Havant RFC Veterans, 26-14. Taking a lead into half time, the Mariners were surprised and a touch alarmed by a rejuvenated Havant fifteen who produced a much improved second half.
During the afternoon training session and in the changing room before the game, Head Coach, Taff Williams and Team Captain, Guy Pallet explained the game plan: don’t play to Havant’s strengths! Don’t try to match them up front; run the phases and spin the ball wide making best use of the solid 3G surface to run them ragged. At times this happened. At times, not so much.
Quickly on the front foot Havant dominated possession and territory for the first fifteen minutes making inroads into the Mariners 22 but were held up by some strong choke tackles made by the particularly large RN front five. Following a long clearance kick, the Mariners were finally in the right half of the pitch. An area of stand out success was the line-out, with Adams and Mortenson taking clean ball on own throw as well as spoiling the Havant ball; this helped push the possession percentage in the Mariners favour for the rest of the half.
At the 20 minute mark, debutant Standoff, Andy Vance, crossed to open the scoring for the Mariners with some fluent interplay between the backs and the forwards, running some strong lines and support play to fix opposite numbers, creating large gaps to exploit. The match was full of sniping runs from Dawson in open play and from the set piece the result was a second try in quick succession for the scrum half.
The Mariners, in their purple patch, were playing with confidence and creating mismatches in midfield and overlaps out wide in a match where both sides looked to play at pace and move the ball. Pallett added a third try just before half time and it could have been more were it not for the resolute defence of the Havant back three including Fullback Andy Woolhead.
The Mariners were on top 19-0 at half-time with last match’s MotM Fentum converting 2 from 3.
As the understanding between the players grew a more consistent style of play developed. Sayer from Fullback entered the line at pace either out wide or in the centre channels and Havant didn’t have an answer when he crossed the line with a well-taken fourth try which Fentum again converted; he could have got a brace but for a well-executed looping pass from Vance being judged forward. It was the perfect start to the second period with impetus provided by the fresh legs introduced at the break.
To the exasperation of the players and TSG there was a sudden increase in infringements with replacement Thurston sin-binned for a dubious high tackle. Havant now began to increase their tempo, choosing to run free kicks and penalties rather than kick, they made the hard yards using their running centres and back-row. Deep in the Mariners 22, scrum half Doug Elvvy dinked the ball over the defence line, re-gathering his own kick to score. Converted by Nick Destefano, the Number 10 went on to add to his personal tally by converting his own try following some strong running in the wide channels.
Havant finished the game the stronger side clawing back those two tries but this was a solid performance from the Mariners which allowed the coaching staff to formalise the game plan and see a number of players have a run out. There is now a group of individuals capable of vying for each of the different positions, exactly what the TSG would like at this stage of the season.
Mariners Team: Geldard, England, Deane; Maton, Adams; Pallet (Capt), Milford, Mortenson; Dawson, Vance; Daku, Fentum, Stokes, Campbell-Baldwin, Sayer.
Replacements: Buckley, Clarke, Thurston, Thompson, Clark, Melhuish, Croft, Phillips, Holmes, Dash, Bagshaw, Little.
Article by J Campbell-Baldwin
Images by Alligin Photography © Geraint Ashton Jones