RN Mariners Notch Up First Win Of The SeasonOn a clear February evening a small but vocal crowd braved the cold at the Rectory to watch a Devonport Services 'Legends' side coached by Dave Oakley provide the first opposition of the season for the RN Mariners. With last year's Mariners Team Manager Lt (Chris) Roberts promoted to Senior XV duties for their match against Oxford University, a largely new Team Support Group (TSG) had gathered that morning at the Wyvern Centre, HMS Drake, wondering how many of their players would make it to training. Player unavailability had already caused the cancellation of earlier fixtures against Ivel Barbarians and Torpoint so it was make or break for the new Team Manager Lt (Micky) Flitcroft and Coach CPO (Dave) Sibson. Experienced Head Coach Lt (Mick) Connolly had worked the phones in the previous week and assembled a group combining experience, 'new' talent and some younger players to fill known gaps. After a hard training session there was a confidence about the squad going into the match - the players knew how the coaches wanted them to play. 2 new members of the TSG, Secretary Lt Cdr ('Arty') Shaw and Kit Manager CPO ('Gaz') Ibbotson had even made it into the starting 22.
Kicking off under the lights on a dry firm surface, the Mariners immediately applied pressure on the Devonport defence with a crisp passage of play involving hooker Lt Cdr (Jack) Rickard. From the restart, No 8 CSgt (Lee) Norris carried the ball strongly to score under the posts with that evening's captain and fly half Lt (Paul) Clark converting to give the Mariners an early lead 7-0.
Devonport came back in force winning a penalty but were unable to retain the ball at the subsequent line-out. Half-way through the first period the Mariners' blind-side was replaced by LET (Jan) Chenneour and a well-executed line-out move 10m out from the Devonport line saw Norris going over for his but this time unconverted try making the score 12-0.
A prolonged period of pressure from the home side saw Devonport awarded a string of penalties for infringements at the breakdown resulted in firm direction being give to the Mariners Capt by referee Lt (Jane) Pizii RN. The Mariners resisted the Devonport onslaught and looked to break up field led by left wing CPO (Speedy) Harding fly-hacking into the opposition 22. Later the Mariners were reduced to 14 men for 10 mins as they were yellow carded for slowing play on the ground, the Mariners also lost their influential No 8 to injury replaced by guest U23 MA (Sam) Winfield.
Another line-out steal by the rejuvenated Mariners pack saw a good passage of play with inter-passing between backs and forwards. However, Devonport turned the Mariners possession over and a long kick up-field and found nobody at home in the Mariners defence. An easy try under the posts brought the scores back to Mariners 12 -7 Devonport at half-time.
One change at half-time saw POPT (Fido) Fidock come on at scrum-half. A poor passage of play by the Mariners allowed Devonport to draw level with a try 12-12. Back to full strength, the Mariners began to increase the pressure, looking particularly dominant at the line-out. With their fly-half placing his penalty kicks on a ‘six-pence', the Mariners scored from a line-out; Fidock off-loading to Chenneour whose try was converted for a 7 point lead, 19-12 after 50 minutes.
Two more Mariners tries followed with the side showing the confidence to run the ball from defence and off-loads going to hand. The first came on the back of a rolling maul following a line-out - something not included in recent Mariners game-plans. Fidock dummied well from the reset and Shaw took a good inside line to the whitewash, 24-12. The second came with 15 minutes to go, courtesy of some strong straight running from inside centre LS (Ben) Cartwright. Clark's conversion made the score 31-12 and it seemed Devonport were vanquished.
Refusing to lie down, Devonport retaliated with determination gaining a penalty advantage for an infringement at the breakdown which they use effectively and allowed their wing scoring out wide to make it 31-17. 5 minutes to go some ineffective first-up tackling from the Mariners allowed the Devonport fly-half to score under the posts and then convert his own try bringing them back to 31-24.
The Mariners seemed to realise the game was not yet over and continued to press their line-out/ maul game eventually closing the match out with a well-earned but close-fought victory. Final score RN Mariners 31 - 24 Devonport Services 'Legends'.
The TSG were left with positive impressions from the first fixture of the season. On the plus side the team played with pace, on and off the ball, the lines of running off the ball-carrier were accurate and the combination of Clark's place kicking and the rolling maul from good line-out ball was unbeatable. The minuses were clear to see; too many infringements at the breakdown, first-up tackles not low enough or ineffective and general fitness levels poor.
With key players still to return from operational commitments the match had been a good start to the campaign, allowing some new players to be seen by the coaching team. Head Coach Connolly awarded the Man of the Match to Arty Shaw whose performance in the air all evening had been a major contribution to the Mariners line-out dominance.
PO WS(SSM) I Oberholzer (HMS Trenchant) Lt Cdr J Rickard MBE (HMS Raleigh) CPO AET E J Cowie (RNAS Culdrose) Lt Cdr N A Shaw (HMS Sultan) LET(ME) R A B Seru (HMS Ocean) NA(AH) T R Matanatabu (HMS Ocean) (Rep LET(ME) M P Chenneour (HMNB Drake)) Sgt W Rees (CTCRM) CSgt L A Norris (DHU Chicksands) (Rep MA S Winfield (MDHU Derriford)) LS WS(SSM) I J Jenkins (HMNB Faslane) (Rep PO PTI S Fidock (HMS Raleigh)) Lt P Clark BRNC Std M V Ifereimi (HMS Ocean) LSea (Diver) P A D Cartwright (SDU 1 Plymouth) Mne L B G Johnston (RNAS Yeovilton) CPO AEM M J Harding (HMS Sultan) WO2 PTI P R Clark (40 Cdo RM) (Rep CPO PTI G M Ibbotson (RNAS Yeovilton)).