Navy Rugby Enjoys a Successful 2023 Sevens Season

Beginning and End: Steve Jackson presenting Will Rigelsford his match shirt at the training camp and the Player of the Season award in Cheltenham.
The Makos!
Lewis Warren and Gwidion Jenkins as Stingrays co-captains for Leeds Jungle 7s.
VX3 training kit to the fore: all stashed up and raring to go
Stingrays with the Social Plate in Richmond.
Worthy Winners in Worthing.
Leaping like a resplendent salmon.
Incisive lines and cutting angles.
(L to R) Sam presenting Will with the Top Scorers award; Junior handing over the Most Improved to Sam Bartlett; Naivs, Freddy and the Rookie of the Season award.

In an outstanding display of skill, determination, and teamwork, the Navy Rugby Sharks, Stingrays and Makos have concluded a splendid sevens season that will undoubtedly go down as one of their most enjoyable and well-travelled campaigns to date. The squads showcased their prowess in five prestigious competitions across the United Kingdom, leaving a trail of victories and unforgettable moments in their wake. 

The Season Kicks Off - 

The 2023 Navy Rugby Sevens season commenced with a bang after an exhausting training and selection camp at HMS TEMERAIRE with the teams setting realistic goals of being successful at each of the tournaments while bringing home silverware from at least two events. The teams rigorous training regimen, led by seasoned head coach Silivenusi Buinimasi focused on refining their agility, speed, and adaptability, ensuring they were primed for the challenges ahead. On the selection weekend the Sharks and Stingrays were presented with their shirts by the CEO of SA Group, Steve Jackson. 

Blazing a Trail in the UK Circuits - 

With unwavering determination and bristling with confidence, the Navy Rugby Sharks and Stingrays entered their first tournament, the highly competitive Summer Social 7s, held at the RAG. The Sharks had a challenging first run out losing against Esperanza before beating the RAF Spitfires in a 3-team pool. They next took on another established 7s team, the Assassins in the Plate SF but walked away empty handed. The Stingrays smashed PitchBook Panthers out of the park before being grounded by a loss to Chopshop. The development team then faced and beat Belsize Park before ultimately beating KTP 7s to leave with the Social Plate! 

Following their rough ride in Richmond, the Sharks, Stingrays and Makos travelled to the Leeds Jungle 7s, held at West Park Leeds RUFC. Faced with equally strong opposition, the three teams showcased their ability to adapt and strategize, securing some spectacular results and reaffirming their status as a force to be reckoned with in the sevens circuit. In the first round the Sharks drew with Krusada Knights, the Makos thumped the Barbarians 46 – 0 with the Stingrays on the receiving end of a similar score line against the Carnegie Crusaders. The second round had an international flavour with the Sharks defeating Barbados. The Stingrays lost to a strong Leeds Tykes VII and the Makos tasted defeat against West Park. The Makos made it into the Social Cup final beating Sale FC though they lost to West Park in that match. The Sharks were not as successful initially losing to Tropics 7s but did win the Plate Final beating the Knights and 2 Yorks along the way. The Stingrays rounded off the success winning the Manuai Plate Final against Midnight 7s. 

Conquering Regional Challenges - 

Not content with resting on their laurels and with the Stingrays and the Makos taking the weekend off, the Navy Rugby Sharks continued their triumphant march by competing in a local tournament at Worthing where they would go on to win after victories in all 7 of their fixtures. The Sharks' combination of precision passing, seamless teamwork, and lightning-fast and evasive sprints to the line proved to be an unbeatable formula. In each of these matches, they managed to clinch victory, cementing their reputation as a formidable Sevens squad. The pick of the fixtures was the round against the Sheffield Barbarians (who they went on to beat in the final) where they came from behind. Losing 21 – 7 at HT, scores from Rigelsford, Elliott and Mayes saw them through. Once the arithmetic was complete, the Sharks scored 173 and conceded 85. A good day out! 

Return to London- 

The three squads came back together in Acton, the home of Wasps FC for the London International Sevens. The Sharks started proceedings with a straightforward win against the Nomads. They handsomely beat QVSOB before the pick of the matches against the Army on pitch one which they drew 7 – 7 with a win beckoning as the soldiers were 2 players down for a goodly amount of time. To watch the match follow the LINK and scroll to 3hrs 42mins. They beat the Akuma Beavers in a close fought QF but were undone by Rugby for Heroes in the final play of the SF. In the Men’s Social the Stingrays didn’t make it out of their pool only beating the Hyenas while losing to the Chargers and the Dolphins. ‘Every day is a school day’. The Makos experienced a similar day. They had a single win against the Pumas but lost to the Wild Dogs. They enjoyed an impressive performance against the Fulhamingoes going down 24 – 17. In very changeable conditions each side acquitted themselves commendably. 

- The Final Fling -  

Navy Rugby’s last foray was in Gloucestershire for the Cheltenham 7s. The tournament saw the return of two international 7s players but even with them in the squad it wasn’t quite enough to take the title. As the rain swept through the West Country, the Sharks did similarly through their pool, beating Esperanza, the 99s and the Hammerheads. In the final the Sharks lost by a single point to the All Stars. The players stood up well to the conditions, but certain members of the TSG were reticent to embrace the weather in the same way. 

AInspirational Season - 

The Navy Rugby Sevens season was hugely successful not just in terms of results but also in the number of players and staff involved. Their journey took them across the country and won them many admirers. Their relentless determination and dedication showcased the indomitable spirit of servicemen and women, both on and off the field. 

As the season concluded, the Navy Rugby Sevens Squads would like to express their gratitude to their supporters, sponsors and hosts acknowledging the unwavering encouragement from the rugby family. Aware that there is more to be achieved, the TSG is determined to get even more players involved and to continue their pursuit of excellence to inspire the next generation of rugby enthusiasts within the Navy community and beyond. 

Looking Ahead - 

As the squads take a well-deserved break to regroup and for many to refocus on XVs, the teamremain focused on the future, with their sights set on even greater events in the upcoming seasons and perhaps even a trip abroad… 

Summer Social 7s: 

SharksKiniDakuliga, Ben Collishaw, George Wagstaff, JosaiaKorobiau, Chris Mills, Will Riglesford, Jay Toogood (C), Jack Davis, Maree Werner, Dan Palmer, George Prentice, Rob Hume, Kristan Dobson, Roko Kurisasa . TSGSilivenusi Buinimasi, Junior Koroi. 

Stingrays: Robbie Hawkshaw, Lewis Clayton (CC), Sam Bartlett, Heinrich Heinz, Jim Tribe, Gwidion Jenkins, Jamie Maleham, Freddy Elliott (CC), Lewis Warren, Alexander Cox, Josh Warburton, Jack Slark, Kieran Baldry, George Poulteney, James Routley, Christian Postle.  TSGVasemaca Naivalulevu, Sam Benzie. 

Leeds Jungle 7s:

SharksKiniDakuliga, Rory Mitchell, Lewis Clayton, Jack Davis, George Wagstaff, Freddy Elliott, Will Riglesford, Jay Toogood (C), Kristan Dobson, Brandon Knight, Jamie Maleham, Rob Hume, James Routley.  TSGSilivenusi Buinimasi, Junior Koroi.  

Makos: Sian Mclaughlin (C), Elenoa MatavesiSuz Badger, Caitlin Render, Yvonne Mealy, Elona Byttell, Rebecca Addis, Laika Swain.TSG: Sarah Jenkins 

Stingrays: Robbie Hawkshaw, Aaran McMillan, David Brown, Kieran Baldry, Christian Postle, Alexander Cox, Will Wright, Joe Spence, Tom Day, Gwidion Jenkins (CC), Lewis Warren (CC), Cameron Shires, Josh Warburton.  TSGVasemaca Naivalulevu, Sam Benzie 

Worthing 7s: 

Sharks: George Wagstaff, Chris Mills (CC), Lewis Clayton, Will Rigelsford (CC), Rob Hume, Freddy Elliott, Jack Ryder, Lewis Roxby, Sam Bartlt, Harry Mayes, Andrew Llewellyn, Viliame Delainukunawa, Brandon Knight, James Routley.TSG: Sam Benzie, Junior Koroi. 

LIT 7s: 

Sharks: Chris Mills (VC), Luke CadorKiniDakuliga, Lewis Roxby, Harrison Utton-Smith, George Wagstaff, Sam Bartlett, Will Rigelsford (VC), Rob Hume, Tom Briggs, Kristan Dobson, Jay Toogood (C), Freddy Elliott Cheslin Louw.  TSGSilivenusi Buinimasi, Junior Koroi. 

Makos: Rose Dixon (C), Caitlin Render, Yvonne Mealy, ElonaBythell, Lucy Honeybell, Daisy Lumsden, Becky Addis, Sian McLoughlin, Tegan Morley, Jess Fidge, Tokasq Bolanakoula, Isobel Harrison, Ro Mereqni Saqanavere.TSG: Sarah Jenkins 

Stingrays: Brandon Knight, Cam Dale (CC), Tom Holloway, Finn Turner, Kieran Baldry, Alexander Cox, Will Wright, Lewis Warren (CC), Robbie Hawkshaw, Arran McMillan, Marika Cagila.  TSGVasemaca Naivalulevu, Sam Benzie. 

Cheltenham 7s: 

Sharks: Luke CadorKiniDakuliga, Chris Mills (VC), George Wagstaff, Sam Bartlett, Tom Briggs, AJHussel, Lewis Roxby, Jay Toogood (C), Will Rigelsford (VC), Harry Mayes, Freddy Elliott, Kristan Dobson, Kane Tear-Bourge, Jerome Rudder, Cheslin Louw. TSGSilivenusi Buinimasi, Junior Koroi.

Words by J Campbell-Baldwin; Images by Alexander Cox, Biko Satala, Sam Benzie.