MARINERS v RAF VULTURESThe 2011 Inter Service Rugby competition finally got underway under blue skies at Newbury RFC with the opening fixture being the Mariners up against last seasons' Vets Champions the RAF Vultures. The squad were well prepared following a good training camp and although there were a few aches and pains, there were no injuries. This left head coach Lt Mick Connolly (CNR) with a few interesting decisions to deal with during selection.
The Mariners dominated from the kick-off, Justin Doney (820 NAS) took a great catch and made yardage to give Vice Captain Paul Clark (FLEET EDO), the first opportunity to put the Vultures under pressure in their own 22. From the Line Out, A catch and drive leads to WO George Hillan (FLEET N6) scoring from a rolling maul. Mariners 0-7 within 2 minutes.
Good defence from the Mariners led to Doney feeding the backs with quick ball and caused the RAF to be caught offside allowing Clark to increase the lead with the ensuing penalty. 0-10
The RAF didn't make the required 10m from the kick off, from the scrum Lee Norris (Chicksands) at No 8 picked up deliver a pass to put Joe Ainsley (HMS Sultan) clear. Great support play drew the sparse RAF defence and gave Gary Ibbotson (HMS Raleigh) a run in from 20m to score on his debut 0-15.
Following a period of RAF pressure they were awarded a penalty for an offside 3-15. However, the RAF returned the favour 3-18.
The next 10 minutes play typified all that the Head Coach had demanded from the team. The RAF kick off was caught, driven forward which gave Clark opportunity to pin the RAF in their own 22 with a well worked kick. Baz Stockton (HMS Triumph) and skipper Dom O Connor (RM Band) dominating the line out, secure ball was won giving space for another new cap, Lee Norris, to score on his debut, 3-23. The Mariners then executed the same passage of play and, although the RAF won the ensuing line out, great pressure from Doney gave the Mariners the final score of the half and lead 3-30.
Unable to retain the momentum from the first half and hampered by injuries, the Mariners lost some of their shape and composure which gave a brief advantage to the RAF. However, aggressive Mariner defence kept the RAF at bay, from a scrum on the RAF 22m developed into a rolling maul from which Chris Richards (CTCRM) scored 3-35.
To there credit, the RAF heads never dropped and they remained a threat throughout the second half. However, the confidence and flair displayed by the Mariners enabled them to drive forward and makes inroads into the RAF defence.
Finally, after continued pressure, and a loose kick from the RAF allowed Ibbotson to stop the ball going into touch and he then run it back 30m into the RAF end, from the ensuing ruck, the ball is fed quickly to Clark who sealed the win with the final try of the game 3- 40.
Head Coach Mick Connolly commented ‘That it was an excellent all round display with some spare capacity'. He was very pleased that the 5 new caps performed extremely well (Lee Norris, Justin Doney, Gary Ibbotson, Reece (40 Cdo) and Harding (RNAESS)) with 3 of them scoring. He went on to say ‘We used the elements to our advantage in the first half and coped wisely with it in the second'. He urged caution and restraint, reminding the players that this is only round 1 of the inter service and that our biggest adversary still awaits. These sentiments were echoed by RN Chairman Commodore Rob Thompson who spoke with the team in the changing rooms, commenting that he was personally proud of their performance.
The next game sees the RN Mariners pitched against Taunton RFC on Wed 27 Apr 11 KO 1900.