With a scratch 15 raiding party having brought home a 65-10 point win away against Fareham Heathens IIs September 16, Lymington Mariners awaited their home clash Saturday against Andover IIIs with anticipation. Andover had beaten Fareham by a similar margin a week earlier and boasted that any seven of their pack were worth eight of any other team in the league. They must have been talking BMI.
Mariners’ opening foray was impressive. No. 10 Ben Rodway hoisted the ball just over the 10-yard line and the charging pack retrieved the ball at the first ruck, only to drop it. But back it came in the first set piece of the game, won against the head. This provided the platform to gain territory and another scrum, which saw Rodway slice through a gap in the on-rushing defence and put Mariners ahead with an early unconverted try.
A slack-jawed Rodway Snr commented “He’s never done that in his life.” Mrs Rodway added, “Was that good? I know nothing about rugby.”
Rodway Jr later attributed the opportunity to the service supplied by new scrum-half Ben Sykes, which put him on the front foot the moment he received the ball. (Yes, Ben and Ben made up the flower pot men at 9 and 10).
And what a talent Sykes is, adding speed and flair to the Mariners attack, which with crash balls from the forwards soon took Lymington back into Andover’s danger zone. Stuart Harvey distinguished himself by chucking the ball blindly backwards over his head to keep it in play five yards out – the first of two interesting overhead passes to come from the prop forward – but it landed nicely in the hands of Mitch Sullivan, sporting legs every bit as pasty as the hue of Tim ‘David Dickinson’ Hinman’s Costa del presión sanguínea tan was red. Rodway converted to make it 12:0.
Few starts to a game come better.
Andover rallied, and with their first real possession showed that both forwards and backs had attacking prowess and weren’t going down at the first tackle. Forced back into their 22, Jack Dovey fell foul of the new tackling laws and was allowed ten minutes pitchside to feed the Kookaburra that nests in his beard ever since his return from down under. Mariners showed their mettle moving back up the pitch, with Sykes (no relation to Bill) again proving sharp to beat three tackles and bring Lymington back within yards of the Andover whitewash, only to sustain an injury and be taken off.
Down to 14 and with Sykes left to the uncertain mercies of medic Sian Toms, Lymington (like Sykes) were vulnerable, but unlike their opening match of the season, the Mariners’ bench this time was brim full of Asha. Nick Bubb came in at 9 and the attack reconvened, drawing Andover into the ruck in the right hand corner of the pitch before the ball was swung out to inside centre Adam Harris who bulldozed his way over the try line.
Andover were keen to press home their numerical advantage forcing some heroic tackling from Mikey Jenner, Steve Ryan and Ollie Westall in quick succession, not to mention the welcome return of Neil Foot, with his mixed Siberian tiger/Jack Russel parentage clearly still to the fore.
Ground was lost nonetheless, the visitors forcing Lymington back up the pitch and forcing a penalty on the 22. Andover took it quickly and some slick handling saw them go over the line in the corner to bring the score to 17:5.
Back to full strength and the Mariners were again on the attack. A clearance from Andover fell to full-back Tom Crissel, who avoided the chasers and swerved through the first line of attack. A chip over the last line of defence and an accommodating bounce let him gather to score under the posts. A sublime individual try that earned him not just Rivaaz Man of the match, but the Samuel L. Jackson award for simply looking cool (if not deservedly smug).
Crissel also opened up the next opportunity returning another clearance with Quickquid levels of interest. This was followed by a series of battering runs from the forwards that was brought to a conclusion by a redeemed Dovey in the corner, Kookaburra unharmed in the fray. Not done, Ryan at outside centre found a gap and made good yardage, backed by Dovey, but Andover again brought the Mariner attack to a halt 5 yards out, just in range for Bubb to sell a dummy and stretch over the try line.
Next up was James ‘the Mummy’ Banasik, whose gait has assumed a curiously long stride since his introduction to the bacterial delights of New Delhi’s water supply. But he’s not the Mummy for his maternal instincts and his reintroduction to Mariners’ rugby was marked by some excellent breaks that almost saw the home side take another five points before half-time, Rodway being denied by a knock-on.
Andover came back into the second half with some serious attacking intent, punctuated by counter attacks from the Mariners, one of which saw Harvey deliver his second overhead pass. This was a single-handed effort with his left hand over the top of his right ear and frankly it was a beauty. Unfortunately, it was delivered with the speed of an Exocet missile, missing both potential ball carriers and only serving to startle a watching cocker spaniel some distance from the touch line.
Then in the midst of Andover’s most effective phase came a first in the living memory of Mariner’s rugby: a backs’ move designed in practice was called and executed in the run of play, ending in a try. Tight secrecy rules mean details cannot be divulged, all video evidence has been destroyed, text redacted and Freedom of Information requests refused, but the result was another five points in the corner for the handsome Crissel (topless calendar will be out in time for Christmas).
What had got into the Mariners? Training it would seem.
Early days yet, but this, the organization around the ruck delivering continual well-supported crash balls, the employment of Tuilagi Harris at inside centre, and a new found off-loading game are all evidence of the pay-off from Thursday nights sessions led by the youthful Coach Harry. This was backed by a strong bench, enabling sterling shifts from Owen Cavell and David Dickinson to be taken on by the muscular presences of Matt Toms and Trevor Uff.
In contrast, Andover were suffering from attrition, although this didn’t stop them challenging again, Mikey Jenner and then Phil Jenner producing cover tackles that were instrumental in holding the visitors up five yards out, followed by a period of try line defence eventually cleared by Rodway.
As the clocked ticked down, and with their bench emptied, Andover knew the game was becoming irredeemable, opening up the opportunity for further Mariner attacks.
Dovey took five points in the corner to be followed by a break from Pete Rolfe through the centre, offloading to Phil Jenner, and then to the hugely impressive support of Harvey, given the weight to distance ratio achieved in his being the next man on the scene half a pitch from Rolfe’s initial break. This foray was eventually converted into points with another poacher’s try from Bubb, followed by a Steve O’Callahan-inspired break passed to Sullivan for another five. The scoreline ended 60-5, a convincing victory that takes Lymington to the top of the Solents 2 League.
Next up training Thursday night 7.00 p.m. in preparation for Portsmouth IIIs away on Saturday. Be there or be square, some of you will achieve both.