Royal Marines Hold On to Thwart Late FAA Fightback
Inverdale Challenge Round 1
Royal Marines v Fleet Air Arm
Though both sides were without a number of players, away with Senior XV at IDRC2015, the opening game of the 2015/16 Inverdale Challenge produced some excellent flowing rugby and no little drama as, down to thirteen men, the Royal Marines dug deep to withstand the Fleet Air Arm’s late onslaught. For the Fleet Air Arm they left ruing the amount of possession kicked away when playing with wind whilst for the Royal Marines they will learn that when seemingly in command of a match a lapse in concentration can cause a few heart stopping moments.
With a fresh breeze and the slope in their favour the Fleet Air Arm knew they had to start briskly and soon had the Royal Marines under pressure. An early penalty for off feet was converted by Sam Carver to open the scoring and from the restart they were soon back on the attack. However when Ash Wakefield was stripped of possession in the tackle, the Royal Marines counter attacked from deep and with purpose. With quick ball at the ruck, Danny Lowe was caught offside and Dave Coleman had the opportunity to level the scores. The wind pushed the kick wide but from the resulting drop out Griffiths-Jones and Mike Thurlow combined to bamboozle the Fleet Air Arm defence and work Troy Gobey into space for the opening score. Coleman made no mistake with the conversion and the Royal Marines were in front 7-3.
With their confidence high the Royal Marines were now dominating the game and it wasn’t long before inside centre Griffith-Jones again breached the Fleet Air Arm defence. This time it was fullback Mike Thurlow who benefitted as he crossed for the Royal Marines second try. Coleman added the two points to extend the home side’s lead to 14-3.
The Fleet Air Arm had a number of opportunities to get back in to the game but too often they kicked away possession, which the Royal Marines gladly ran back at them. Eventually when they did keep the ball in hand they built pressure and were able to gain easy field position when the Royal Marines were again off their feet at the breakdown. Once more the Fleet Air Arm went through the phases before the Royal Marines defence ran out of numbers and winger Luke Cooper was able to cross for the try. Carver kicked the conversion and the Fleet Air Arm was back in the game 14-10.
From the restart the Royal Marines quickly looked to reassert their dominance and it wasn’t long before their direct running created space for Troy Gobey to cross for his second. Coleman was wide with the conversion but the lead was a healthy one, 19-10 at half time.
Playing into the wind the Fleet Air Army really needed to get the first score. However they immediately put themselves under pressure when John Clay was wrong footed by the bounce of the ball and ended up felling Mike Thurlow whilst he was still in the air. The yellow card was inevitable and the Fleet Air Arm lost their vital link between forwards and backs as well as conceding another 3 points to the boot of Dave Coleman, 22-10. Dave Coleman then punished the away team further when he scuttled over for the Royal Marines bonus point try, out to the left, and though he couldn’t convert 27-10 seemed an insurmountable lead.
Losing a second player, Rich Hall, to the sin bin for a deliberate knock on did not help their comeback cause but with the Royal Marines relaxing it was the Fleet Air Arm who slowly began to regain the initiative. As they built the pressure so the Royal Marines infringements grew. Three metres out, side entry and playing the half back when offside meant Adz Baird became the first Royal Marine to be sin binned, followed immediately after by Tom Worboys for side entry when defending a Fleet Air Arm driving maul. Attacking thirteen men the away side went to the corner but the resulting maul was held up. From the scrum it was Jim Kava who crossed for a well taken try which Carver converted. Immediately from the restart the Fleet Air Arm attacked from deep in their own half and with the best play of the match they swept up field for another try and suddenly with only a minute remaining the Fleet Air Arm, with their tails up, were back within one score, 27-22.
The Fleet Air Army secured possession from the restart, first job done, but the Royal Marines manage to hold them up in the tackle and form the maul. With the Fleet Air Arm desperate to get the ball back the Royal Marines threw 12 players in to the maul; unplayable; scrum to the Royal Marines, which in their desperation to turn over the Fleet Air Arm wheeled illegally. Penalty to the Royal Marines, a kick to touch and the full time whistle was heard. They should never have been under so much pressure at the end and though credit must be given to the way the Fleet Air Arm staged their fight back; the Royal Marines will surely not make the same mistake again as they seek to regain the Inverdale Challenge Trophy.
Royal Marines: Tom Jones, Chris Stanton, Pez Mason, Matt Warwick, Ryan Morris (C), Tom Worboys, Ollie Mason, Joe Staniforth, Dave Coleman, Dawson, Daks Daku, Griffiths-Jones, James Sutton, Troy Gobey, Mike Thurlow
Replacements: Josh Taubale, Clarke, Matt Thurston, Young-Husband, Matt Maddocks, Adz Baird, Chris Wright-Hider, Matt Couzens
Fleet Air Arm: Chris Warner, Danny Lowe. Jake Reynolds, Ash Wakefield, Jack Wood, Jim Kava, Ollie James, Chris Thompson, John Clay, Sam Carver, Mike Jenkins, Ben Lenderyou, Rich Hall, Luke Cooper, Bobby Conroy-Smith
Replacements: Guy Pallett, Ryan Cox, Richard Binns, Zak Harvey, Jack Horlow
Article by Geraint Ashton Jones
Images by Alligin Photography / © G Ashton Jones