Mariners and RN Women Have Very Different Mood Music for Kneller Hall Clash
A heavy loss and a convincing win mean that the two Navy sides travel to Kneller Hall with very different expectations after their matches against the RAF. For the Women their well documented disruptions this season showed as the RAF Women started slowly but produced a powerful performance for a well deserved win. For the Mariners, with Chirs Thompson to the fore, they gradually ramped up their game until the RAF Vultures had no answer to their strong running play. More of the same against the Masters on Saturday and the Mariners could deliver the Senior XV the perfect incentive before the afternoon’s main match.
Again the RN Women team have been forced to make some changes and will be up against an Army team who have looked formidable all season. At last the Navy side seems to have a little more balance about it and it will be interesting to see how Nikki Elvidge fares at fly half. She was clearly the stand out player in the Women’s backline at RAF Halton and will be looking inside to Kirsty Marlor to provide her the service that will be able to release the strong running of captain Lauren Morton and the more elusive style of Emma Swinton. With Sam Alderson back to her preferred position of fullback, alongside Lizzie Grant and Mel Landman the back three have will hopefully get a chance to show their attacking skills as well as their defensive courage.
Whether that happens or not will depend, as ever, on the forwards who will need again, as they do every year at Kneller Hall, to produce the game of their lives. Pam Wilson-Williams extends her record as RN(W)’s most capped player is at hooker, with Alice Kightley moving to prop alongside Kate Parkman. Helen Stevenson and Nik Williams will be providing the drive from lock whilst Charlie Fredrickson moves to Number 8 to allow Anne-Marie McIntyre and Pippa Hutchinson to play at flanker.
With the game always very physically demanding the Royal Navy Women’s bench will be required to provide fresh legs. Hong Kong international Lottie Myrans is available for the first time since the Plymouth Albion match and is joined on the bench by Rhiann Dilmore, Andrea Marshall, Imogen Brown, Laura Blagdon, Cheryl Godwin, Tui Tuiava and Izzy Rawlinson.
As ever it is sure to be a hard task after a particularly disrupted season but the RN Women’s team are nothing if not resolute and will undoubtedly pull out all the stops to ensure that Packman, Williams and Elvidge can look back at their RN cap winning game with pride.
For the Mariners, who play at the same time, they know they have an excellent chance of lifting the illusive Inter Services Veterans trophy. Too often they have not delivered at Kneller Hall but their game against the RAF Vultures was one of the most complete in recent seasons. Senior XV squad member, Chris Thompson was often the rallying point as his strong running created opportunities for those around him. Again he is joined by Guy Pallett and Will Jerrold in a very effective and mobile back row.
In front of them John Court anchors the scrum from tight head prop and is joined by Keith Lister and Josh Taubale in the front row. With Aidan Riley providing the guile and Mark Pollard providing the power the Mariners will not lack for options either at set piece or in the loose.
Wayne Dawson replaces Glen Cuthbert with Paul Clark remaining as flyhalf. The now regular partnership of skipper Jamie Phillips and Max Boyce look to continue the form that produced a water tight midfield defence in the first round. In the back three, Russell Sayer, at fullback, was another who had a stand out game against the RAF and will be looking to bring the exciting running skills of both wingers, Sam Halofaki and Laisiasa Daku, in to the match.
This season the Mariners are blessed with a bench that can add impetus to the game. Chris Gore and Paul Clark (RM) will be itching to get on the field in what would prove they cap winning game. They cover the backs along with Dean Fentum and the effervescent Mark Fidock. Whilst in the forwards Wilf Rees continues to defy the years and is joined by James Brown and Tom Matanabu.
If the Mariners can harness the sheer desire that the Women show each year to take the game to the Army then they have the all round game to deliver another victory and send the Royal Navy faithful across to the stadium fired up and ready to turn Twickenham Blue. It would also be the perfect farewell to their skipper who will play his last game in a Navy jersey. Capped in younger days at Twickenham he leads the Mariners for the last time before departing for Australia. He would have to leave the trophies behind but winning memories are sure to make the journey easier.
Royal Navy Women: A Kightley *, C Myrans, K Packman, N Williams, H Stevenson *, A-M McIntyre, P Hutchinson, C Fredrickson *, K Marlor *, N Elvidge, E Grant *, L Morton (Capt) *, E Swinton *, M Landman, S Alderson *
Reps: P Wilson-Williams *, R Dilmore, A Marshall *, I Brown, L Blagdon, C Godwin, T Tuiava, I Rawlinson
Royal Navy Mariners: K Lister, J Taubale, J Court, M Pollard, A Riley, G Pallet, W Jerrold, C Thompson, W Dawson, P Clark, L Daku, J Phillips (Capt), M Boyce, S Halofaki, R Sayer
Reps: J Brown, W Rees, B Milford, T Matanabatu, M Fidock, D Fentum, P Clark, C Gore
Both matches Kneller Hall, Saturday 9 May KO 10:30. Entry by Army Navy ticket.
Article by Geraint Ashton Jones
Images Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones