SHARKS NARROWLY MISS-OUT ON THE BRIGHTON ROCK HONOURS!
Brighton 7's - Apache Braves
A very warm bright warm day heralded the 2015 Brighton Open Sevens Competition. Nominally Day 2 of the Brighton Sevens Festival – the social competition and party having taken place the day before. Now amongst the very last remnants of the tired party-goers, the open competition kicked into action. For the Navy Sharks this was a chance to build on their performance at Hartpury and begin to establish some real coherency in their Squad output. Operational commitments meant that the full TSG management were elsewhere deployed, and as such, Silivesi Buinimassi (Sharks coach) held responsibility for bringing the squad together and establishing the necessary playing routines. With Mano Satala now back from domestic duties, alongside Sette Raumakita and Roko Kurasasa, the selected squad had the necessary maturity of some core seasoned Representative Sevens players, while the likes of Cat Stevens, Todd Croft and Greg Lloydall all provided solid support and game knowhow.
The day’s proceedings started like the sleepy party-goers probably felt, with the initial pool game against the ‘Illuminati’ side being a slow, somewhat lackadaisical error strewn affair that highlighted that both teams were still coming to terms with the heat of the day and the challenge ahead. By the end of the game, while there were signs of some Naval coherency, the 19-5 victory only served to mask some obvious issues and regrettably the Sharks were a player down as Kurasasa had injured his knee. Both teams would need to pick the pace up if they were to stay in the competition till the meaningful rounds.
The second pool game against the ‘Flying Fish’ was the necessary wake-up call required. Flying Fish came out firing and played at real pace, bullying the Sharks in defence, scavenging loose ball and then finding holes to attack. It was a good first half reminder to the Sharks of what was required – and although they fought themselves back into the game – the subsequent defeat at 31-12 highlighted that they needed to start playing with their normal aggression, work their defensive patterns properly and play with their typical coherency. A few well-chosen words and the simple confirmation that they had indeed made it into the Cup rounds – gave the squad all the focus they needed.
If the pool was anything to go by, it was very clear the Cup challenge wasn’t going to be easy. The first round would be against Samurai (Academy) currently being coached by ex-Navy Sharks coach Billy May. As expected they had performed well to date and only a focussed coherent Sharks performance would secure the victory over their old mentor’s side. Happily the break till mid-afternoon allowed our squad a chance to regroup and refocus, whereupon they came out firing properly against the younger Samurai players. Now stronger in the tackle, more aggressive in defence and showing some real coherency and pace in attack - this looked like a different Navy side. Good quick decisive distribution from the terrier like Todd Croft, unleashed the Sharks width and depth out wide. Greg Loydall acting as the playmaker scouting for the space, was quick to redirect the action, while Jarryd Hayler, Richard Hewitt (son of Ex-RNRU player and Worcester Coach Mark Hewitt), and Simon Tulakepa all posed significant threats to the now tiring Samurai defence. The subsequent 19-7 victory was well received by the supporters, who all readily acknowledged the difference in the Navy side.
The second Sharks Cup fixture was to be the real test of the squad’s ability and desire; again they needed to establish the rhythm and pace set against the Samurai, this time against the somewhat older and bigger side, the Olives. This proved to be the Sharks best performance, where once again their aggression in defence, the speed of scavenging loose ball and the rapid distribution allowing them to pick off the gaps in the opposition, seemingly at will, meant the Olives were always on the back foot and struggled to get into the game. Scoring with relative ease, Hewitt, Hayler, Tulakepa and Croft all played with strength, pace and finesse, exposing gaps for others to exploit. The Sharks were now looking a different team and despite a few niggling injuries beginning to impact the breadth of the squad (Raumakita strained a knee) they were beginning to dominate their opposition. The 43-7 win was well earned and placed them in the final against the ‘Apache Braves’.
Having played last – the Sharks were now given a 30 minute rest before once again turning out for what was to be the biggest challenge of the day – the Final . Despite now having only 8 players being fit enough to take the field – the Sharks started well with the now established level of physicality and aggression keeping the Apache Braves pinned down on their own line – as such it wasn’t long before the robust physicality and pace of new player Timoci Kava (Cousin of Army Navy regular – Jo) began to draw dividends scoring twice with only a breakaway response from the Apaches. A third try by Mano Satala, picking a great line to come off a deft offload, gave the Navy a slim lead with 3 tries to 2 at halftime. But the Apaches weren’t done – their obvious pace out-wide was now becoming a problem to the remaining Navy squad still fit enough to take the field. The Braves subsequently generated possession and were able to score relatively quickly, repeatedly striking through the now tiring navy defence, recovering the deficit and subsequently taking the lead – the Navy rallied and ‘tit-for-tat’ scoring followed with Hayler and Hewitt keeping the Sharks just in touch, but eventually time ran out and the Sharks went down to the Apache Braves losing 33-27. A good game and a worthy final against a very capable Cup winning opposition subsequently awarded the Brighton Rugby Sevens ‘Jerry Collins Memorial’ Cup.
Although a slow start to the day, this turned out to be a very exciting competition with a developing Navy Sharks squad, who look to have some real potential on hand. While all the established senior players performed well, there were some notable performances by the emerging Todd Croft, Jarryd Hayler, Simon Tulakepa and Timoci Kava, who should be noted as ones to watch amongst others for the rest of the Sharks’ season. Already looking forward to the next competition at Chester, 20 June!
Report by Mark Deller
Images Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones & © John Walton