Torbay Sharks Circle for the Kill
As the RN Women and the Senior XV were taking part in une affaire française across the way at HMS Drake and Brickfields respectively, the Mariners were playing a local derby against the hardened Torbay Sharks. Brothers Gary and Stu Kingsley were at the front of the Sharks’ onslaught scoring three tries between them as well as braces for John Arnold and Steve Hodge. Showing greater composure and resilience, the Mariners came back in the second half but not enough to turn over the deficit with the final score Mariners 17 Torbay Sharks 34.
Backs’ Coach Paul Clark said, “The guys can hold their heads up. Torbay is always a tough match, that’s why we have this fixture, and I can’t think when we last put so many points past them. Obviously we have things to work on but I think we are where we need to be at this stage prior to the RAF match.”
A brutal first 10 minutes saw captain Mortensen leave the field for a deliberate knock-on stopping a certain try. Down to 14 men the Mariners were sucker-punched with a wrap around on the blind side leading to a simple stroll in for Sharks No.10, Pryce. To put this into perspective the Army pack did a number on the Sharks with an emphatic victory, winning 44-19 at Torquay.
Where previously the pack achieved parity with their opposition in previous matches, the scrum could prove a cause for concern as they were driven back numerous times losing ball against the head. Being stood up in the attacking maul and falling off the tackles may also create some worry beads but there is enough experience in the side to calm the nerves and put out a good performance for the final two matches of the season.
It was Arnold again who scored the next try, converted by S Kingsley and five minutes later brother Gary scored after a strong hand-off and gallop towards the line. The Sharks earned the space out wide at the breakdown with loose forwards and backs taking advantage of the space. The Sharks could have opened the floodgates but for two forward passes at inopportune moments. A try before half time from Hodge meant a well-deserved 22-0 cushion to the Torbay side.
A rejuvenated Mariners started the second half the better and the perseverance of the side was typified by the flying Halofaki who chased a missed penalty clearance, tackled his man who fumbled, kicked ahead, handed off a despairing tackler to score under the posts for Satala to convert.
The Sharks benefited from a lengthy break as a stricken Riley gingerly left the pitch. Recovering the ball to the back of a line-out, the maul was driven over the line for G Kingsley to score, converted by his brother.
On two occasions a mishandle or the ball not going to hand denied further opportunities for the Mariners to cross the line. They will need to bring an increased level of precision in the red zone as chances against the RAF and Army will be few and far between. That being said hard yards from Thompson and Hillman in the loose saw the guards at the ruck being trampled over with Kewn scoring his first try for the Mariners with a characteristic front row head down charge to score from 5 metres out.
The passing got slicker, the running lines sharper and the continuity improved and there was a moment of just maybe as a blind side run from Satala with options outside, delayed the pass and with a smart short ball saw Sayer through the gap. At 29-17 the Mariners were back in the game with 10 minutes to go.
But Lady Luck was not with them as a mistake at the re-start saw the ball reset with a scrum on the half-way line and with options both sides the Shark pack with an almighty drive shoved the Mariners back. On the back foot the Mariners were turned inside out by the try scoring run of Hodge as he delivered the coup de grâce.
The stage is now set for the Inter Services with the Mariners having lost three but won two. They will need to come out of the blocks a lot more sharply than the RAF who have had limited game time this season.
The Mariners’ first Inter Services match takes place at RAF Halton, 5 Apr 17, KO at 1030.
Mariners: Geldard, England, Lister; Riley, Mortensen (C); Butterworth, Hillman, Thompson; Laliono, Mardle; Daku, Satala, Boyce, Valemie, Sayer.
Replacements: Cozens, Jones, Kewn, Doney, Milford, Stokes, Fidock, Fentum, Croft.
Officials (Royal Navy): Simon Templeman (Referee), Dave Martin and Taff Watkins (Assistant Referees)
Sharks: Webber, Shillabeer, Dingle; Carpenter, Arnold; Knight, Chadwick, G Kingsley; Rylance, Pryce; Chadwick, Hodge, Francis, Sandercock, S Kingsley.
Replacements: Bodnar, Gill, Cole, Page, Glanvill, Hallett, Gelpey
Words by J Campbell-Baldwin
Images Royal Navy Rugby Union © Mark Andrews