Saberton calls the shots against Devonport Services


RN Mariners


Devonport Services RFC Veterans

Saberton found gaps where gaps did not exist.
Dane Warcyk, on debut, formed a strong centre partnership with Vallender.
Hillman and Lamsin were strong in attack and defence.
Kewn’s snazzy new boots helped him across the line.

A ‘Captain’s Innings’ from Paul Saberton and the ensuing game control highlighted the importance of coming together for a training camp before the first Mariners’ match of the season against the typically strong opposition of Devonport Services.

As Storm Dennis continued to batter the UK, and as the Rectory proved to be a less than satisfactory rugby playing surface the Royal Navy Rugby Union Mariners’ TSG dusted off the wet weather contingency plan and decided to move the fixture to the more durable Keyham facility.  The mindset shift from playing on grass to the harder 4G surface, particularly for the less flexible player, is always challenging but as Head Coach, Chris Richards noted in the Mariners’ pre-season interview, this change would only go on to benefit the squad and help prepare “…the players for the conditions they are more likely to encounter at the Inter Services when it will be dryer and the ground harder.”

With the final score a resounding 41-17 win to the Mariners, the obvious aim is to build on this momentum and to continue to grow and develop the squad in preparation for bringing back the Inter Service trophy to HMS Temeraire.

After the initial exchanges typical of two heavy-weight boxers feeling each other out, the Mariners were awarded a penalty for an offside infringement and with his boots accurately zeroed, Saberton put it between the uprights to get the scoreboard ticking.  3 – 0.  As all coaches will testify the reaction to an early score is vital and to the Mariners’ detriment, it was the Services who seized the advantage busting through the defensive line leaving the Mariners to discuss on the try line whose man was whose. 3 – 5.

Where Devonport’s kicker struggled, Saberton thrived, putting another score through to regain a marginal 1-point lead.  6 – 5.  And then the phases began to evolve.  Swift recycling from the forwards allowed a deft pass from Dean Fentum, who last played playmaker for the President’s XV, to find Val Vallender, back from a rugby sabbatical, on an inside line to carve through the 10/12 channel, evading the would-be tacklers to dot it over the line. The Saberton conversion took the score to 13 – 5 to the Mariners.

At the quarter mark it was Saberton’s turn to make the yards, running a mesmerizing route through the whole Devonport defence which he duly converted once he got his breath back. Asked his opinion, Team Manager Guy Pallet described the try as, “amazing!” 20 – 5.

But it didn’t stop there as Saberton showed excellent close-to-the-breakdown work, seeing a gap and as all good number 9s would, sensed the try line and just went for it. Oh, and he converted that one as well! 27 – 5.  The Mariners took a 22 point into the changing room at half time but returned to the pitch one man down as Vallender had to sit out a further 6 minutes due to a yellow card for a high tackle.

The Mariners must have cooled down more quickly during the break as the Services began to show why they are always a tough nut to crack at the start of the second half. Their tireless number 7 first scored a converted breakaway try, (27 - 12) then the hard tackling inside-centre made up for his earlier missed tackle on Vallender, with a breakaway try from the half way line. 27 – 17.

With the deficit cut to only ten the next score from the rampaging No.8, Stephen Hillman reassured the TSG. Saberton added

a further two points. 34 – 17.  After fielding the kick off, within one minute the Mariners were back on Services’ try line and this time it was 5 points (and another two for Saberton) for the front row with Peter Kewn bustling over. 41 – 17.  He was there and then he wasn’t – yellow card and 10 minutes for Kewn who took exception to a team mate being on the receiving end of a cheap shot!

The last 20 minutes were energetic but structured with the Mariners slowing the game to a manageable tempo, playing out their patterns in the right areas of the pitch.  Devonport still played their part, managing to arrest the Mariners go-forward close to the line by either causing a knock on, strip, or turn over. The match ended 41-17.

Player of the Match, Paul Saberton, while untying his trusty boots said, “…that was a very good start to the season after only a day and a half as a squad. We put together a dominant performance that has given us a lot of positives to take forward. Obviously, there is plenty to work on in the coming games but we are all excited for the season ahead.”

Guy Pallet said after the game, “It was pleasing to see 11 new and returning players combine with 10 from last season. This was a great start to the Inter Service 2020 campaign; as a TSG we were able to take away many pluses. We were able to give all the players an opportunity to impress. As a squad, we are really looking forward to the next game against Havant on Wednesday 4th of March.”

Mariners: Sayer; Croft, Vallender, Warcyk, Pickles; Fentum, Saberton (Capt); Erne, Lister, Cozens; Lamsin, Thurston; Sullivan, James, Hillman.
Finishers: Kewn, Oberholzer, Scovell, Wotton, Harris-Joce, Junior.

Words: J Campbell-Baldwin and G Pallet
Images credit: Royal Navy Rugby Union /© Mark Andrews

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