Surf and Turf at Swindon Sevens

Manoa Satala, the Sharks skipper, became more influential as the games became harder and provided good structure for the youngster to develop.
Toots Vakalutukali’s play making and control in the centre of the field was missed in the Semi Final
Tristan Trehan took last season’s U23 form up a notch and produced some strong running lines throughout the tournament
Tony Pitts a new face to Navy Rugby was on who caught the eye and became more influential as the tournament progressed.
Lewis Cooper took his opportunities well and is another newcomer to the Navy representative shirt.
Five tries in the tournament from Sevanaia Naulago marked him out as a player who could exploit space. It will be interesting to see how he goes in the XV-a-side game.
Three tries saving tackles and seven tries in the tournament ensured that Jordan Shuttleworth stood out and was (for me) the Navy’s player of the tournament.

The second tournament of the Shark’s Sevens season saw a significant step forward from Slough.  Shuttleworth confirmed his developing class, Vakalutukali and skipper Satala provided control whilst Naulago announced himself as a player of great potential.  The highlight of the day was a well deserved victory in a full on encounter against an impressive Public School Wanderers.  However when surf met turf in the Semi Final it was the Ponty Butchers who were too powerful and physical for a tiring Sharks team, hampered by injuries.  Watching Director of Rugby, Mark Deller, will have been pleased with what he saw.  Early errors were learned from, and a number of youngsters put in performances that caught the eye.  Also skipper Manoa Satala showed that there is still plenty of life in this seemingly ageless Mariner.

The Navy Sharks opened the day with a comfortable win over Mavericks (Wimbourne).  A hat trick from Jordan Shuttleworth, two tries from Marika Lavelana and a sixth try from Sevanaia Naulago eased the Sharks into the Swindon tournament and built on their Slough 7s performance.  However though the win was straight-forward the greasy conditions caused some handling errors, giving the side something to work on before their second pool match against the well fancied Public School Wanderers.

Though playing under the Public School Wanderers banner the team were primarily drawn from the Welsh Rugby Union’s Sevens development squad.  They showed their class from the start where defensive pressure forced the turn over penalty and their half back stepped through the Shark’s defence for a 7-0 lead.  The Sharks responded straight away with a break away try by Shuttleworth wide out on the right, which he was unable to convert.  This was quickly followed by a second try under the posts by Sevanaia Naulago, which inexplicably Shuttleworth failed to convert.  A second try for Naulago, this time converted, allowed the Sharks to reach half time with a 17-7 lead.

Defence was on top in the early part of the second half but it was PSW who eventually made the break through.  Then from the restart a soft turnover from the Sharks allowed a second score and the game was level at 17-17.  The set back spurred the Sharks to produce their best sevens of the Summer so far.  After some good continuity it was ‘Toots’ Vakalutukali who broke through for what should have been a match winning score.  However a lapse in concentration allowed PSW to again level the match.  With time now up, the restart was the last play of the game and the Sharks showed some excellent composure to retain possession and work an opening for Shuttleworth to cross for his fifth try of the tournament and secure a well earned and very satisfying 31-24 win.  It meant that a final pool round win over Bamboo would ensure a more favourable draw in the knock out round.

The final pool game saw a tense, cat and mouse opening period against Bamboo with the Sharks sucked into a more physical confrontation than their style of rugby suits.  It was Bamboo who managed to get the only score of a close first half and would have extended this early in the second half but for a determined last ditch covering tackle from Jordan Shuttleworth.  From the resultant penalty the Sharks lifted their game and sought the space.  With good continuity they went the length of the pitch was Sevanaia to score in the left corner.  The score was backed up when Manoa Satala rolled back the years and burst down the right touchline.  Unable to go the 70m to the line, he produced a deft inside pass to Sevanaia who crossed for his fifth tournament try.  It looked as if the Sharks were going to hold on to their 10-7 lead but to their credit Bamboo exerted pressure with their defence and eventually picked of a wayward Sharks pass for the match winning interception score.  With PSW winning their final game with ease, the Sharks finished their pool as runners up and progressed to the quarter-finals.

The first knock out round was, in truth, a little bit of an anti-climax.  Having had excellent matches against PSW and Bamboo, the Sharks were simply too strong for the Godfathers.  Even with this supremacy it was refreshing to see that they maintained their intensity and teamwork along with a desire to cover back on the few occasions that their first up defence was breeched.  Two tries from Jordan Shuttleworth were backed up by tries from Tristan Trehan, Vivian Wilmort and Lewis Cooper.  A late consolation try ensured a 33-12 victory and a meeting with Ponty Butchers in the semi final.

It was a weary Sharks team that took the field against the welsh side. ‘Toots’ Vakalutukali loss due to injury was compounded by further injuries to Tristan Trehan and Marcus Stevens.  Unable to generate the required intensity against a strong and physical Ponty Butchers team the Sharks succumbed, conceding two tries in each half. 

Overall Swindon proved to be a good tournament for the Navy Sharks and they made good progress from Slough.  This needs to continue next week when they compete in the North Dorset Sevens before they will be able to measure they progress made during the Summer at the Harpenden Sevens in August where they will face both the Army and the RAF Spitfires.

RN Sharks Squad @ Swindon Sevens
M Satala (Capt), W Vakalutukali, M Lavelawa, S Naulago, T Pitts, L Cooper, A Wakefield, C Paterson, V Wilmort, T Trehan, J Shuttleworth, M Stevens

Upcoming fixtures:
North Dorset Sevens, Saturday 26 July 2014
Harpenden National Pub Sevens, Sunday 24 August 2014

Article & Images by Alligin Photography / © G Ashton Jones