Sharks retain their North Dorset Sevens Title
North Dorset Sevens Competition
Following heavy rain overnight, the North Dorset Sevens were given a bright sunny reprieve. With the newly cut pitches now suitably softened and the going now firm as opposed to rock hard, the conditions could not have been any better for a Seven’s competition. With cloudless skies and a cooling wind coming over the hill – this year’s conditions were much more apposite to fast flowing rugby than the heat wave we had last year. As last year’s champions, the Sharks were fully aware of the need to defend their title and as such had always planned to assemble a strong squad – regrettably last minute changes of manpower meant they were subsequently only able to travel with 10 men and as such the odds of achieving a follow-on success went down markedly. Further to that, the initial competition groupings had to be re-ordered after the first game to take into account the fact that a couple of teams were either stuck in the SW traffic or were ‘No Shows’.
The Sharks first game was against the Public School Wanderers - a tough fixture against a well prepared side – this fixture saw the Sharks still assembling some form of coherency and it took a while to get into their stride. That said, they showed a level of patience and maturity that allowed them not to rush, carefully crafting opportunities when holding possession through good inter-linking play and slick hands. A strong resilient defence meant they were able to apply pressure onto the opposition. The Wanderers, similarly experienced in these early round scenarios also maintained their composure, he difference being they simply failed to get their runners away when the opportunity allowed. A well fought battle with sharks eventually gaining pace and coming out on top (W22-12), only to be told there was going to be a competition shuffle - This was now classed as a warm-up game!
With the new groups subsequently formatted and the timings published, the first pool game was against Sherborne RFC. Another tough fixture where the initial competition looked tough and robust, but again the apparent maturity of the Sharks squad absorbed the initial onslaught before putting together some nice well-crafted inter-linking play, creating holes in the opposition defence. Sharks regulars Mano Satala and Greg Loydall worked well together creating space before putting a deft offload away to the support runner, while Senior XV winger – Matt Bowden, now back at pre-season training with Redruth RFC, showed some real pace on the outside finishing his scoring opportunities well. Sharks finished on top after another relatively tough encounter (W28-7). Next pool game against the West Country Caviliers was an easier match, the Sharks were starting to find their pace and their ability to better control the contact area and distribute the turnover ball was now starting to pay dividends – Cory Moore showed his Senior XV pedigree with some good decision making at the base of the ruck looking to exploit mismatches - the final score W27-7. The last pool game against the North Dorset Badgers highlighted the issues of not having assembled the full squad. Players were now starting to tire and pick up knocks and the option to rest players was essentially denied owing to the small squad available. A feisty game where the Sharks had to defend as much as attack against a team of Badgers, playing in front of strong local support, eventually saw the Sharks come out as comfortable winners – again their patience in attack was key – good performances from Craig Sutton and Gareth Rees Jones highlighted the obvious potential within the new upcoming Representative player pool, while strong finishing from the likes of Luke Cooper reaffirmed the strong liaison with the RNRL community.
Having completed the Pool rounds successfully – the Sharks quarter final was against Eagle Force, another Military side (Army Air Corps) who were clearly fit and ready for a robust contest. As ever it was a battle of creating opportunities and the ability to put together a coherent defence. The Sharks overcame the opposition, finishing W24-7 but again had to work to achieve their victory. The Semi Final against ‘Takepuna Turtles’ was probably the toughest fixture and certainly the closest. Coherency in defence, better linespeed than in previous matches ensured that the Turtles were not given any free opportunities. Again the squad had to work hard to maintain the pace, with strong performances by Joe Nakavulevu and Gareth Jones making the difference - Sharks finally securing the victory in what was the closest result – W14-12. And so to the final against 7 Bamboos. The whole squad had to pull it together for one last effort. Clearly physically tiring, having played more games than everyone with less players available – this required total concentration and focus with no mistakes. With a relatively strong defence and some attacking pace left in their legs – the Sharks put together a strong performance and were able to dominate the Bamboos from the start. With Mano Satala topping of the day with 2 well-crafted tries – they eventually ran out winners (W 44-12). Overall Ttis was a good performance by the squad, having played one more tough fixture than everyone else and having given themselves an effective greater mountain to climb by starting with only 10 players – a testament to the S&C conditioning ongoing in the union and perhaps more importantly the RI support being offered in the med tent – BZ Ray & Co!
Sharks retain their North Dorset Champions Title for the second year in what is now growing into a larger competition – this year running parallel with the Open comp, there was a Men’s Social comp and indeed a Women’s Cup with some 8 teams entered – perhaps there is an opportunity for the RN Ladies to offer up a side next year? Our sincere thanks go to organisers who run a very well balanced event, servicing the needs of all the players and spectators alike – same weather next year? Special mention should go to the ‘Plymouth Fijians’, made up of Naval serving personnel from the SW, who also put a team together, although this time they only progressed to the plate competition. There are clearly lots of serving personnel wanting to play Sevens at the moment – we should look to better capitalise on this enthusiasm!
Next Sharks competition will be at Harpenden – Sun 30 Aug. This will be the only opportunity where all 3 Service sides will meet in competition and is routinely the strongest (and hardest) Open competition of the season with all the regular big names featuring – we hope to be able to put out our strongest side available.
The Rugby Spectator
Images Alligin Photography / © John Walton