Ancient Mariners Notch Up First Win In Plymouth

With the proposed training camp at the beginning of the year cancelled due to bad weather and availability, the pressure was on Team Manager WO Glen Humphreys and Head Coach Lt Mick Connolly, under the direction of Chairman Cdr Andy Phenna, to regain lost ground and put the RN Vets on a safe footing to commence its forthcoming fixtures.

The Squad formed up in the Wyvern Centre at 1100 sharp(!) to be bombarded with a number of briefs on our aims were for the season. Under the care and tutelage of Mick, Backs Coach PO Neil Evans and new Forwards Coach, CSGT Tony Hands, the team would play heads up, open and running rugby and lose the tag ‘old mans rugby'. This, combined with an outstanding medical team (POPT Wendy Briggs, LPT Jane West & Mr Graham Jones), a new and enthused Kit Manager in WO Ben Hedges and the ever present tea boy Lt Cdr Arty Shaw, the squad would have all the support it needed to perform on the pitch.

The pre-match training session was the development of good stretch and warm up techniques and basic ball handling skills, before moving on to the RN Defence and Offence system that the squad is employing this season. An early indication of the commitment and ambition of the players was demonstrated when Midshipman (Desig) Joe Ainsley had his nose broken and, following a 400 mile journey to get there, was told he couldn't play that night!

The game against Torpoint was played under perfect conditions on a cool evening, with no breeze and a reasonably well prepared pitch. The team got off to a good start with a little known newcomer to the side, CPO Dave Sibson, impressing with some very deft touches, great game awareness and some perfectly weighted passes putting both the centres and wings into open space. CSgts Baz Walton and Bob Toomey were seeing more ball in the first 10 minutes that they would normally expect to see over 2 games!! This open running quickly led to channels opening with Dave scoring his first try for the RN Vets - a feat we want to see a lot more of this season! With CPO Rick Astley converting the RN were 7-0 up within 9 minutes.

Torpoint replied strongly and made inroads into the RN 22. Unfortunately, centre AET Mark Jones had to leave the pitch with a twisted ankle. This upset the recognised defensive system and the RN had to weather a storm of strong Torpoint running. Thankfully, turnover ball allowed Lt Jon Holroyd to get the ball to the backs but Dave Sibson floated a 30 yard miss pass straight into the arms of the Torpoint Number 11 to score under the post unopposed - 7-7 with Sibbo down for 10!!

A tad humbled, the RN came back again strong and direct. POPT Clayton Patilla was beginning to dominate the Lineout with some majestic jumping (honestly!) and with quick tap ball off the top of the line, the ball zipped along the line to LS(D) Ben Cartwright, who was impressing with strong and direct running, and scored under the posts 14-7. Mick and Glen then made a few changes to see how some of the newer members of the squad would perform. This, combined with Torpoint having a better passage of play, led to good Torpoint field position and a ‘Garry Owen' being spilled forward, picked up and planted under the posts by the Torpoint stand off: 14 -all just before the half and the RN upset at simple errors that had allowed the Torpoint team back into the game. However, the half was not over. Rugby, when played direct, strong and straight, is a simple game and this proved ever so true when Clayton, Dave, Ben and CPO Niall Campbell combined to release CPO Sherlock Holmes wide out on the right. 19 -14 to the RN at half time!!

The second half started well; from the kick off, Sibbo released his backs with a deft chip over the top exposing acres of space, which Rick Astley took with open arms. He converted his own try and the RN were now 26 -14 within 2 minutes of the restart.

Again, the Torpoint side showed outstanding grit and determination and drove the ball downfield, putting the RN defence under pressure. The RN Scrum began to creak, the break down was becoming a lottery and the scrum looked rudderless. Torpoint had a 5-metre line out and, under massive pressure due to slow ball, Torpoint charged down the line kick and fell on the spilled ball to score, bringing the scores closer at 26 -19 after 10 minutes.

Mick then made some tactical changes, which began to reap rewards. With a the Referee, Lt Cdr Dave Philpot, showing great awareness and allowing the game to ebb and flow, the RN moved into good field position to allow Rick to claim his 14th point of the day with a 30 metre penalty.

This galvanised the RN side again, with direct and strong running rugby, especially from Clayton who was like a possessed Springbok on the high veldt and PO Kai Blackett, pressure was put on the Torpoint stand off to kick ball away in good field position. Leaping over 5 metres in the air, Sherlock plucked the ball out of the dark night sky, gave a great offload to the forwards who drove a further 20 metres on, before the ball was sweetly released by LS Taff Jenkins to Sherlock to score his second try of the night: 34 -19 up and the RN was comfortably in control.

Torpoint, however, was far from being down and out and some great return running rugby by POPT Gary Ibbotson put Torpoint into good field position, which their forwards took advantage of to score after sustained pressure. 34 -24 with 5 minutes to go - the game was now balanced on a knife's edge. A hectic 5 minutes followed with Dave Philpot having to read the riot act to a number of people (including the aforementioned POPT Ibbotson!) but both teams cancelled each other out. Final score was 34 -24 to give the RN Vets their first win.

Head Coach Mick Connolly, in time honoured fashion, presented awards to Ben Cartwright and Kai Blackett for their good performance on the night. Mick praised Dave Philpot on his handling of the game and was pleased by the all round effort of the Vets, However, he warned that more work needed to be done in the gym to raise fitness levels to an extent were we can begin to compete effectively.

Next match is against Havant at Burnaby Rd on Wed 10 Feb - KO 1900.