Opening match excitement for Mariners at Keyham
Devonport Services RFC
The first match of the season for the Royal Navy Rugby Union Mariners was against Devonport Services Rugby Football Club. A short notice change of venue to Keyham did not upset the players; an actioned packed match eventually resulted in a narrow win for the Sporting Blues.
It was a cold January evening in the heart of Plymouth when the RNRU Mariners gathered for their game against Devonport Services Vets. Players new and old travelled through the snow dusting which covered the south of the country. It is always hard in the first game but having fun running with the ball in hand was the main aim of the evening. With the Rectory not playable Keyham Sports ground was the only option however it was undergoing testing to conform with current RFU regulations. Fortunately the pitch passed the inspection and all parties concerned informed the fixture was set.
From the kick off the Mariners started quickest. With the first play they attacked Services moving the ball wide to debutant Ryan Wotton to score in the corner 5 - 0. This shocked Services into action and after sustained pressure against the Mariners the Services winger cut a short line to score under the posts and take the lead 5 - 7. With both teams tackling hard on the 3G+ surface defences stood firm which keep the action in the centre of the field. Debutant Chris Warner and team mate John Lamsin led the charge. On the 12th minute Services extended their lead with a quick tap penalty from the No 9 which caught the Mariners napping, extending the DSRFC lead 5 - 12. This lapse frustrated the Mariners and team captain Andy Vance had strong words about not switching off. This gave the Mariners some spark with Paul Saberton at scrum half and debutant Tiny Richardson at No 8 they started to probe the Services defence allowing strong runs from both centres James and Sullivan and on the end of a well phased move another debutant Colin Campbell went over the line to score 10 - 12. Both teams now started to get into the flow with their patterns of play, the teams were evenly matched and it was hard to gain any advantage. The Mariners' success came from their excellent lineouts and the strong scrum winning all their own balls allowed Sullivan on the 38th minute to score with Saberton converting to finish the half in the lead 17 - 12.
After the break changes were made and another debutant Mark Flanagan joined the front row with Rob Jones and Olly Dugmore. The coaching team were keen to reward those who had travelled with game time to learn and settle into the squad. It was Services who reacted best after the break, they stayed organised and moved the ball well. On most occasions the ball was spread to the wing which stretched the Mariners' defence and allowed Devonport Services to score on the 44th minute to re-take the lead 17 - 19. Another 10 minutes passed with the ball passing from one team to the other with neither team able to gain a real advantage until the Services winger popped up in midfield slipping a few tackles to draw in the defence before setting up the centre to score 17 - 24.
Changes were made by the Mariners with Jon Holroyd having a run at 9,and moving Saberton to full back. The game became more open, Saberton was given lots of ball to run with, linking well with the forwards but little mistakes and mis-timed passes restricted further scores until the 70th min when Services had a scrum 5 metres out. The Mariners allowed them to pick and drive until they scored 17 - 29. With 10 minutes left the Mariners slowed the game and started to control the space. They put the ball into the corners to give their forwards perfect space to attack, the rugby played was great to see. On the 78th minute Lamsin popped up with the ball to score and Saberton converting to narrow the gap 24 - 29, the last few moments were going to be tense. The clock was ticking down and the Mariners had all the possession, attack after attack came until the ball was fumbled forwards to end the game 24 - 29.
For those watching it was an exciting game to watch, with two evenly matched sides showing off their rugby skills. For the Mariners the game was not about the result, it was about players playing rugby coming together for the first time in the season and an opportunity to integrate new players into the team. The Mariners would like to thank Devonport Service Vets for a great game of rugby. The Mariners are next in action on the 20th February at HMS Collingwood when they take on Havant RFC. Spectators are welcome and entry is free so come along and support the Mariners on their road to the 2019 Inter Service competition. Kick off is 1930.
Team list: A.Vance (captain), J Lamsin(vice-captain), R Jones, K Lister, C Warner, O Dugmore, M Geldard, M Flanagan , R Cozens , P Kewn, S Hillman, B Richardson, B Milford, P Saberton, O James, A Sullivan, A Peel, C Campbell, R Wotton, J Holroyd, T Tuikoro
Words by: Guy Pallett
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © Mark Andrews