The Only Way is Up
A match which saw optimism replaced by disappointment across the Mariners team as they produced a lacklustre performance in defeat to the Vultures. Set piece, handling and their kicking game all deserted them as the Mariners defence of their trophy faltered from the very first whistle. Whilst it is no longer any use to think of what might have been the team know that in the words of Yazz’s 80s hit, ‘The only way is up’, and they must deliver a better performance when they meet the challenge of the Army at Kneller Hall on the 30th April 2016. Russ Sayer’s consolation try with the last play of the match may have give a little shine to the final 24-7 score but the Mariners know that the game was not a reflection of their capability.
The RN Mariners faced early disruption both before and during their opening 2016 Inter Services match against the RAF Vultures. During the warm up Paul Mortenson received a knock and had to be replaced by Matt Thurston, with Paul reverting to the bench. He was then called upon far earlier than he would have wished when the Mariners lost both skipper Guy Pallett and Chris Thompson from their backrow due to injury. Though these changes didn’t help, they weren’t the cause of the Mariners’ defeat.
From the first over thrown lineout, to an unforced knock on and then a charge down, the Mariners went through the repertoire of putting themselves under pressure. Too many penalties led to a team warning and finally a yellow card for prop Keith Lister and it was whilst down to 14 players that the RAF Vultures opened the scoring with a try under the posts. A second try from their lock, Al Blewitt, made it 14-0 at half time with the Vultures not playing particularly well but just doing the simple things right and making far fewer errors.
The Mariners needed to re-group at half time and find some composure in their game but it was not to be. The second half started as the first had finished with the Mariners unable to maintain continuity due to their high error count and the RAF Vultures playing a simple game plan of running hard and working hard for each other to produce quick ball at the tackle. Their third try, scored by Wes Conabeare, came from another missed mid-field tackle, on fifty-five minutes, but it could so easily have been sooner. The lead was extended some ten minutes later when surprisingly the Vultures decided to kick for goal when winning another penalty at the tackle, this time only 5m from the Mariners’ goal line. Gaz Dunn, who had started the match with a missed kick in front of the posts, made no mistake this time and the Mariners found themselves needing four scores with barely fifteen minutes left.
Though only a consolation, the try when it game was well worked. At last the Royal Navy Mariners managed to keep hold of the ball and worked through the phases. A couple of penalties of their own were taken quickly and eventually they had stretched the RAF Vultures defence. With the ball brought back left, Russ Sayer found himself with some space and neatly stood up his opposite man to score in the left hand corner. Dean Fentum added the conversion from wide out but it was too little, too late. Final score mariners 7 Vultures 24.
Mariners: Lister, Taubale, Buckley, Pollard, Thurston, Pallett (Capt), Milford, Thompson, Dawson, Vance, Laliano, Fentum, Boyce, Vallender, Sayer Reps: Rees, Cozens, Mortensen, Deane, Clarke S, Halofaki, Gore, Stokes
Images by Alligin Photography / @ Lee Crabb