army v navy 
Saturday 4th May 2024


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Promising Performance at Havant will Lift Mariners

Promising Performance at Havant will Lift Mariners

A trip to Hooks Lane, the home of Havant RFC, historically bears little reward. Their 1st XV and 2nd XV have both been promoted and their Vets team are the standout side in the county. To be in the game right up until an incredible last passage of play ended the match is to be rightly celebrated.

The Mariners arrived confident in their fitness and their ability to put teams away having beaten the Prison Service and the Torbay Sharks. This would be a stiff challenge but eminently winnable compared to last season when they suffered an ignominious defeat, losing 61 – 22.

In front of a crowd of at least 400, the Mariners in the last minute of the game won another dominant scrum. 9 points down and with the line in sight only a remarkable moment would stop this match from being a closely fought contest. Former Navy player, Dane Smallbone read the pass and galloped the length of the pitch with Cox in hot pursuit. Tiring, his only option to disrupt the defender was to chip ahead. A kind bounce and the hosts were celebrating a 28 - 12 win in what was a fascinating encounter.

The committed Mariners and TSG came together during Easter leave missing some strong players due to increased deployments within the Royal Navy. After a worthwhile couple of days together as a squad, the Mariners named a solid team with numerous jerseys still up for grabs for the upcoming Inter Services.

The Mariners elected to receive so they could dictate the pace of the first encounters and to assert early dominance. The well collected kick off by Mitchell-Heggs was something the Mariners had focused on in their preparations.

The Navy’s first foray into the Havant half was led by Steve Hillman from 8. Winning 20m, Aaron Hunt then added some yards bumping off two players. This led to a line out in a strong position resulting with a try for Hillman after a well-executed driving maul.

Havant’s Matt Morgan replied after some dogged picks and drives with the Dolphins taking the lead with a successful conversion from the touch line.

Fortunately, the score remained that way until the half time whistle as Paul Saberton on his own against three attackers chose wisely. The maxim of ‘go for the player with the ball’ held true.

The first half could have gone either way with strong defensive sets led by Dane Waryck for the Mariners and with a set piece performing well which allowed Hillman to run from the base. The Mariners line out operated well with accurate throwing from hooker, Ed Gaught. Defensive line outs had improved under coach John Lamsin as they managed to turn over ball against a Havant line out commanded by Capt Matt Morgan of the Army Masters. 

Havant took a two-score and penalty advantage into the last quarter and were able to play a little looser. The Mariners had a promising score ended due to a knock on but the understanding between Dave Williams and Saberton earned a lot of yards and admirers from the supporters.

A significant injury to Hunt resulted in a reshuffle of the back line resulting in a scrappy 10 mins as they fought to regain their composure. The Navy backs were looking good breaking the line in the wider channels but struggling to find the final pass. Havant solved this by keeping it tight with big ball carries in and round the break down. Another injury for the Mariners saw Hillman leave the field resulting in changes to the pack closely followed by a change of the entire front row. The Navy stayed strong however and from another immense scrum and resultant close quarters play, former Havant player Gaught emerged with the ball to score the Navy’s second try of the night.

The final 10 minutes were a scrappy affair as Havant tried too hard to put the game to bed – the Navy would not allow this. Smallbone’s opportunistic try put a dampener on an otherwise strong squad performance.

Captain Lloyd John said, “All in all, lots of positives against a strong Havant team and progression on last year’s 40 or so points defeat. We move into the RAF camp next week in good spirits after a solid defensive performance that will stand us in good stead against both IS rivals. With numerous senior players like Al Bodel, Ben Priddy, Richard Cadywould, Jez Parsons, and Seva Naulago to come back, it will only add to the growing positivity in camp.”

The Mariners kick off the Inter Service Competition against the RAF at the Rectory, Devonport Services RFC, PL1 5QE, on Friday 19 April, KO 1800 – all are welcome.

Mariners: C Carr, E Gaught, T Blackburn; H Mitchell-Heggs, P Kewn; L John (C), C Hart, S Hillman; R Cox, M Southern, D Williams, A Hunt, D Waryck, S Mahoney, P Saberton.

Replacements: A John, C Ellor, P Erne, C Otway, M Thurston, A Aisnscough, A Riley, I Scovell, D Fraser.

Words by J Campbell-Baldwin and L John

Images by Cinnabar Studios

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