Navy Sharks Succumb to Apache Raiders in Strong Harpenden Showing
The Navy Sharks can be pleased with their final outing of the 2015 campaign at the Harpenden National Pub Sevens. Unbeaten in the pool stages they lost 19-14 to Apache Raiders in a competitive Quarter Final. The Raiders went on to beat Germany in the Semi Final before winning the Singleton Cup with a strong performance against Wooden Spoon Marauders in the final. For the Sharks, the Quarter Final was a pertinent lesson in the intensity required at the breakdown if they wish to regularly compete in the main cup competitions but this shouldn’t be allowed to detract from an overall good day of sevens rugby by the Navy Sharks.
The draw was kind for the Navy Sharks with their opening pool match, against Pints Not Protein, the easier of the two teams in their league. The Sharks were never tested and the only blot to their copybook was a loss of concentration at the start of the second half that resulted in two tries being conceded. However before that Bobby Conroy-Smith had opened the scoring for the Sharks before Seti Raumakita crossed for a brace before the half time whistle. Having conceded the two soft tries the Navy Sharks upped their intensity to finish the match once more in the ascendancy and were rewarded with further tries through Gareth John Rees and Jarrad Hayler.
The second game in the league stage was a clear step up in quality as the Navy Sharks faced Billy’s Seven Dwarves to determine who would progress to the cup competition and who would compete for the barrel. The Sharks produced what was probably their most disciplined performance of the season. Their defence had an intensity that posed problems for the Seven Dwarves and their accuracy at the breakdown ensured there were no cheap penalties conceded. With the ball in hand they were patient and prepared to wait for the opening before looking to attack the space that had been created. The first half only saw one score and it came as a direct result of the Sharks’ pressure defence. With the Seven Dwarves turning over possession, some quick hands created a half chance for Gareth John Rees who didn’t need a further invitation to break the tackle and go under the posts for the try.
The start of the second half remained tense with both teams playing good sevens rugby. However with the Seven Dwarves struggling to break free from their own half the Sharks eventually forced them into a risky pass which was pounced upon by Seti Raumakita who though tackled short, regained his feet and then the ball, to cross for the Navy Sharks’ second try. The final score of 19-0 was given a little more gloss when Simon Tulakepa crossed in the final move of the match and the Sharks were through to the main cup competition. For Billy’s Seven Dwarves they were to despatch the RAF Spitfires in the Barrel Quarter Final, which put the Sharks result into a clearer perspective.
The Quarter Final was again another step up in terms of the quality of the opposition. And it showed. Early on the Sharks struggled to handle the intensity, particularly at the breakdown, of the eventual tournament winners. By half time they were two scores behind and it could have been more but for the exemplary work rate from the Sharks in defence. They needed to start the second half well but were unable to get their hands on the ball and the Apache Raiders deserved their third and match winning try.
However the Navy Sharks continued to play good rugby and as they managed to retain some possession began to pose some questions of their own. They were rewarded when, following good work by first Bobby Conroy-Smith and then Jarrad Hayler, Todd Croft was put clear to reduce the deficit to 19-7. A second score direct from the restart was the least that the Sharks deserved. This time it was Gareth John Rees and Luke Cooper combining to free up Ben Chambers for the score. However the clock was against them and the referee blew for time as the conversion sailed over signalling a deserved Apache Raiders victory 19-14 but a strong showing from the Sharks in their final game of 2015.
For the Apache Raiders the tournament was won with a good victory over Wooden Spoon Marauders who had defeated the British Army in the semi final. For the Navy Sharks the season ended on a positive note playing some good sevens rugby. On this form it is clear that a few of this squad will be in Navy action again very soon when the International Defence Forces World Cup starts in October. The Royal Navy’s opening match is against Fiji on 8 October at US Portsmouth, 19:00 kick off.
Royal Navy Sharks Squad at Harpenden 7s: Manoa Satala, Jarrad Hayler, Luke Cooper, Bobby Conroy-Smith, Craig Sutton, Simon Tulakepa, Seti Raumakita, Todd Croft, Gareth John Rees, Ben Chambers, Suli Vadiga.
Images Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones