Royal Navy Sharks defend their title at Abingdon 7s
The Royal Navy Sharks travelled to Abingdon with a depleted squad hoping to retain the 7s cup after last year’s success. This year they had the bonus of the development side, the Royal Navy Stingrays competing alongside them for the 5th time this season and despite a short-notice change to the format of the competition, the Navy Sharks came away victorious!
With a good training session at the Duke of Gloucester Barracks South Cerny, both teams were equipped with the skills and match day plans for a good tournament. The teams arrived on match day to face a little confusion. In the days leading up to the tournament several teams had withdrawn and on the day two team were a no show. This forced the organisers to reschedule all the fixtures. It became a two-group competition with the social and open teams mixed together. With the finals being played at the end of the day both teams now faced many fixtures within a short amount of time so the tactical use of players was going to be key.
With the Royal Navy Stingrays playing in the larger group it was going to be a test of their ability and commitment. First up they faced the home side, Abingdon RUFC, in a game which tested patience. It was 5 mins before the scoring started and it was to the home side who took the lead 10 - 0 at half time. The Navy Stingrays were able to score 4 tries in the second half from Toby Papp x 2, Tom Stevens and Kolinio Takali, but this was not enough as Abingdon edged the win 24 – 20. A narrow loss for the first game. The Royal Navy Sharks were pitted against Oxford Harlequins. The game started well with tries from Ross Williams and Ben Chambers to take a first half lead 33 – 0. With the changes being made the Navy Sharks relaxed into the game and let the ball do the work. Always in control, the Navy Sharks added two more tries from Callum Patterson to win 47 - 0.
With little rest between the fixtures the Royal Navy Stingrays now faced Preseli Babas who were well-drilled and confident. The Navy Stingrays put up a resilient fight however the Babas were too strong and they lost 38 - 0. Next up for the Royal Navy Sharks were Wallingford another local side. Starting the game as they finished the last the Navy Sharks were controlled and critical with their movement. Ross Williams gave some good footwork to score 2 tries followed by Robbie Elder and Callum Patterson for a 26-0 half time score. A misunderstanding after the restart allowed Wallingford to score 26 - 7, but this was the last time they entered the Navy Sharks’ half. A penalty try and 2 from Ben Chambers ensured a Navy Sharks win 52 - 7.
It was evident that the Royal Navy Stingrays had a tough group and the next team on the field were the Gosford All Blacks, another well-drilled side with lots of speed out on the wings. The Navy Stingray players never gave up and stopped many attacks but the All Blacks were too strong and won 33 - 0. After a very short break Tornado 7s were the next to face the Royal Navy Sharks, a very experienced side with lots of talent. Roko Kurusasa was first to score for the Navy Sharks but the Tornados quickly matched it 7 – 5. Then Ben Chambers upped the tempo to score 2 great tries for a 21 – 5 lead at half time. Maybe the Navy Sharks were a little too confident after the break which allowed the Tornados to respond with two well-worked tries before Chambers added his third for a final score 26 – 15 in a tough but rewarding game.
Facing back to back games the Royal Navy Stingrays fatigue was staring to show. Their next opposition was the Green Dragons (High Wycombe). The match was a little one-sided but the effort and energy to try and complete was second to none but unfortunately the Navy Stingrays were unable to retain possession. Tom Stevens was the only player to score in a 57 - 7 loss. The Royal Navy Sharks however were on a roll when they faced the Wecans. Some choice tries from Ross Williams and Sam Benzie brought a score of 40 – 0 at the break. The Navy Sharks made light work of the Wecans in the second half with some fine interplay from Biko Satala and Roko Kurusasa combing to add further tries for a 73 – 7 final score.
Again after not much of a recovery between games the Royal Navy Stingrays were back on the pitch vs the Zulu Swans. After 4 defeats the players rallied and stepped up their game. Troy Goby set the level high with 2 tries and one from Toby Papp allowed them to take the lead 21 – 5 at half time. Goby was on form and got another clean break to bag his third try and following his form Jerry Rodelana and Connor Nute added more for their first victory of the day 40 - 12. Maintaining their form the Navy Sharks were controlled throughout when the played Petersfield. Ross Williams added to his tally to score within 30 seconds, with Roko and Chambers close behind. Not to be left behind in the scoring Chambers added another in the second half, followed again by Roko for a comfortable win 45 – 0 and the Navy Sharks finished top of their group.
With one extra game the Royal Navy Stingrays faced Pangbourne. The players tried to replicate the success of their last game but some weary legs and tired hands meant that the Navy Stingrays never got going. They managed to get a couple of tries but Pangbourne marched on victorious to win 26 - 10. The Navy Stingrays finish 5th in their group and progressed no further in the competition. The team played well but with the groups being a mixture of open and social teams it was always going to be tough for them.
The Royal Navy Sharks were the most dominant side in the tournament and in the final they faced the Preseli Babas who had previously brushed the Navy Stingrays to one side in round 2. Roko was having a fantastic tournament linking well with Bernzie and Biko to score under the posts 7 – 0. A slick line from Biko fooled the Babas defence for him to add another score before half time 14 - 0. Preseli managed to score out wide but the Navy Sharks retained control and Roko topped off another well worked try to finish the game 21 - 5 retaining the Abingdon 7s title for the second year.
A good day was had by all the players even though not all the results went the way the teams wanted. With several players unavailable to travel because of work and family commitments both teams were a understrength but they played well and with passion and never gave up, always giving 100%. A big thank you must go to the organisers of the event who ran a great tournament under the circumstances.
The Royal Navy Sharks and Royal Navy Stingrays are next in action at the National Pub 7s, Harpenden on Sunday 27th August for their final tournament of the season.
Team List - Royal Navy Sharks:
Biko Satala, Roko Kurusasa, Ben Chambers, Sam Benzie (team captain), Troy Goby, Robbie Elder, Ross Williams and Callum Patterson.
Team List - Royal Navy Stingrays:
Toby Papp, Tom Tyrrell (team captain), Connor Nute, Suliasi Naulivou, Kolinio Takali, Api Danibau, Jerry Rodelana and Tom Stevens.
Words by Guy Pallett
Images Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton