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Army Masters vs. Royal Navy Mariners

Saturday 28 April 2012

Kneller Hall

The wet weather decided to play its part in this fixture and it meant that both sides had to modify their play to suit the conditions, although from the start it could be seen that the Navy Mariners with the their big pack wanted a more forward dominated game.

Early play saw both sets of forwards bashing away at each other with the referee playing a major part in the stop start nature of the game. The penalty count mounted quickly against the Masters and early in the game WO2 Neil Griffiths found himself in the bin for 10 minutes. From the resulting penalty the Mariners got a chance to take an early led, they missed that one but shortly got another chance and took that opportunity for the first points of the match 0-3.

The Masters came back with some great yards made by Cpl Bruno Green and LCpl Epi Qolikibua, the Mariners scramble defence worked hard to keep the Masters out. Cpl Lee Davies then went on a strong run cutting through a couple of defenders before he was brought down just short. The Masters attacked once again and this time there was no stopping Green who followed up a kick and chase for the Masters first try 5-3, WO2 Calvin Venn had to take the conversion, which was missed as the normal kicker Davies had to leave the field with a knee injury. SSgt Errol Jones came on with Epi Qolikibua going to the centre from the wing.

The Masters continued to look dangerous when the ball was moved out wide but the conditions and the wet ball frustrated their offensive play. Half time and the message from the coaching staff was to keep patient and work through the phases. The second half started with Mariners still in the game and looking to get their big pack moving forward. The Masters rang the changes with Cpl Lala Lalauvaki and Venn being replaced by SSgt Bongo Davies and Sgt Rob Smart at 9 and 10. The Mariners forwards drove a strong rolling maul into the 22 and the Masters were penalised for bringing it down which allowed the Mariners the lead 6-5.

Griffiths had to leave the field for a short time with a blood injury and was substituted by Cpl Raks Rakaubu. The Masters lifted their game and drove into the Mariners half with WO2 Darrel Cooper and Green again making good ground, the referee showed a yellow card to the Mariners second row for taking a player out off the ball. Smart steps up for the penalty and the kick hit the post with the Masters following up and managing to secure the ball and the crucial put in at the scrum.

The Masters pack anchored by props Maj Ewen Carmon and WO2 Mark Eastley drove the Mariners back and Griffiths was on hand to go over for another Masters try, Smart kicked the conversion for a 12-6 led. The Masters now had their tails up and despite losing a couple of players to injury continued to be the side looking to run the ball when they could and despite having to move SSgt Dave Goddard to full back to cover the growing injury list still looked the more likely to score again.

A second yellow for the Mariners did not help their tiring defence and the ever alert Goddard took an opportunity from a quickly taken free kick to waltz around the Marnier’s defence for another try, Smart kicked the extras for 19-6 score line. The Marnier’s went looking for a consolation try but the Masters defence was organised and stayed strong with Lt Col Simon Orr now on for Cameron and WO1 Shaun Collins on for Eastley putting in big hits knocking the Mariners back. Masters captain SSgt Gary Windle and second row forwards Maj Andy Davie and Capt Mike Thomas continued to put themselves about the park doing the hard graft up front.

The last play of the game found the Mariners kicking the ball into touch to finish the game and the trophies were on their way back to Aldershot where they belong. LCpl Epi Qolikibua is awarded the Man of the Match, with WO2 Mark Eastley collecting the Player of the Season.

Head Coach SSgt Tiny Baker commented after the game:
“The conditions didn’t allow for the more open game that we had hoped and planned for, add to that the usual doggedness of the Mariners meant that it took us a while to get into our stride. Adapting our game plan to suit meant that using our defence, which again was on form, to keep pressure on the Navy that forced them to make mistakes which we obviously used to our benefit. This season our squad set up has been crucial to our success and has given myself and the other coaches quite a few selection dilemmas.

Our strength in areas looks promising for next season and leading into our defence of the World Championship in Turin. I would like to thank the players, coaches, medical staff and management who to a man and woman have committed time and effort in making this another successful season in retaining the Inter Services Trophy.”

Match report by WO2 Jim Evans

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