Royal Navy Sharks - Semi-finalists in the Exeter 7s
The Royal Navy Sharks and Royal Navy 7s development side the Stingrays travelled to Exeter to take part in the South West 7s tournament on 15 July 2017. The tournament had been reorganised at the last minute which left both Royal Navy sides competing against each other. Joining the Royal Navy sides were the Royal Marines 7s team 'the 1664s' who also enter tournaments around the country so on the Friday all the teams had a joint training session at CTC Lympstone where they shared their skills and 7s knowledge.
The Royal Navy Stingrays were the first team to play and they faced a physical Okehampton side. This physicality was to shock the Stingrays but they held firm with strong tackles from Connor Nute and Luke Jones for 4 minutes before Okehampton scored first out wide then got another two tries before half time to lead 17-0. Okehampton scored first after the break but the Stingrays started to apply a mass of pressure however they were unable to convert this to points and an interception try finished the game off 29 - 0.
The Royal Navy Sharks were on next facing 'Two Props, One Cup'. Chris Mills was able to score within the first minute however that was the only score in the half with the players making a few basic mistakes and not really getting into the game. The Sharks were in control throughout and the score was 5 - 0 at half time. The second period started better with Rhys Dimmock-Williams scoring two tries on the bounce. The first game of the day ended with a Sharks win 19 - 0.
The Royal Navy teams were next drawn against each other for the first time, with both sides knowing all the same game plays and calls it was going to be tough, however it was a highly entertaining game and both sides were strong and confident. After the first minute Liam Williams scored for the Sharks 5 - 0, but the Stingrays would not let go and after a good passage of play with some fine running lines Marika Tivitti equalised 5 - 5. The Sharks felt a little embarrassed for conceding but with a level head Dimmock-Williams showed his maturity and pulled away from a weak tackle to score under the posts 12 - 5. From the kick off Charlie Heard gathered to finish the half with the Sharks leading 19 - 5. The second half showcased some great 7s rugby from both sides, the ball was passed without hesitation through the hands to gain space within seconds which allowed Charlie Heard to get his second try of the game before Dimmock-Williams could add to his tally to finish the game 33 -5.
The Stingrays took to the field next facing the Cardiff Saracens, and from the off it was clear that the players were improving in ability and skill. After two minutes Danny Lynch opened the score followed by a great break from Rory Hinchcliffe 14 - 0 half time. From the restart Elliot Woodhead sniped down the short side 19 - 0, with a few phases of play the Stingrays released Luke Jones in centre field to score out wide and to finish the Saracens off Woodhead got his brace to finish the game 29 - 0.
Waiting for the Sharks in the next round were Exeter University, a side with many young players bursting to show off their individual talents. Both sides started strongly with defences put to the test from the off. A basic error from the Sharks allowed Exeter to take the lead 0 - 7, then a lapse in concentration allowed Exeter to score another two before half time 0 - 17. The Sharks players started to chase the game now to get a score back but the passes were not making the distance and the resulting turnover the Exeter number 10 scored under the posts 24 - 0. The Sharks kept hold of the ball but another mis-timed pass was intercepted and the resulting score was the last with the Sharks first loss of the day 0 - 29.
The Royal Navy Stingrays were having a tough day with their next opponents being the Royal Marines 1664s. The 1664s started the strongest with two well taken tries before half time 12 - 0. Then the 1664s scored from the kick off before Robbie Elder was able to pull a score back 7 - 19 for the Stingrays. With the Stingrays having most of the possession Danny Lynch cut a divine line to score beneath the post 14 - 19 with 3 minutes to play, so game on. But lady luck was not riding with the Stingrays and after putting all the pressure on the 1664s another mis-timed pass gave the 1664s time to intercept the ball to finish the game 14 - 26. This was to be the last game for the Stingrays; the players had improved throughout the tournament showing the growth of the 7s game within the Royal Navy Rugby Union. The players should be proud of their accomplishments so far this season, it is hard to maintain consistency with different players every time but this has allowed more players to take part and become part of the Sharks' system.
The final group game opposition for the Royal Navy Sharks were the South Wales Wildcats who they have previously met during the season. Dimmock-Williams was on fire with his fancy foot work on show, he scored the first two tries of the game after 3 minutes 10 - 0. Liam Williams added another before the Wildcats got a try before half time 15 - 5. The restarts were high and the time in the air allowed the Sharks players to maintain a dominant position; James Griggs burst through to score 22 - 5, and again Dimmock-Williams was in the right place to score another two tries before Semi Tabanavesi finished the scoring 41 - 5 and the Sharks progressed to the semi-final.
In the semi-final the Sharks faced Okehampton who had previously played the Stingrays in the opening game. The Sharks probed the Okehampton defence but they held firm and it was Okehampton who scored first out wide, before they sliced a short line under the posts to finish the half 0 - 12. After the break Charlie Heard was on the end of a well worked move to score 7 - 12. The Sharks kept pushing forward but Okehampton held firm to win the game 7 - 12 and they faced Exeter University in the final.
It was a disappointing ending to the day, a few too many basic mistakes were made, but on the other hand the Sharks were in control throughout most of the game but they were unable to score when they needed to. The players are still young and improving and they are learning a lot of lessons both in victory and defeat.
The Royal Navy Sharks and Royal Navy Stingrays will both be attending the Abingdon 7s on Saturday 12 August to defend their title from 2016.
Royal Navy Sharks Team:
Marcus Stevens, Ben Jeacock (captain), Apensia Daunbiau, James Griggs, Liam Williams, Pat Coy (captain), Semi Tabanavesi, Chris Mills, Rhys Williams, Charlie Heard and Luke Tupholme.
Royal Navy Stingrays Team:
Robbie Elder (captain), Tom Hodge, Luke Jones, Rory Hinchcliffe, Tom Tyrell, Connor Nute, Danny Lynch, Marika Tivitti, Elliot Woodhead and Will Burrows.
Words by Guy Pallett
Images Royal Navy Rugby Union © John Walton