Following the Army Academy trials weekend at the Army Rugby Stadium Aldershot Director of Rugby Lt Col Trevor Cottee had much to be pleased with. Over 50 new players turned up to show their skills off to the coaching staff and after a intensive three days a difficult selection process followed. The coaching staff had not called the ‘well know’ players from last year that still qualified in the U23 bracket….and selecting a squad to accompany the ‘already known’ to take forward to the pre U23 Inter Services training matches proved to be a difficult task.
The first of these games was at Sexey’s School, Bruton, Somerset last Wednesday; Academy Coach Major Mike Atkinson had put together a ‘day of rugby’ at the school that has a strong military heritage. Following the girls U14 match the school senior side competed against the Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College in a cracking match, School Director of Rugby Alan Boyd has a developing rugby programme that has seen a mediocre team turn in a short space of time to one that has self belief and shown it can mix it with the bigger and more well known rugby schools. The game was played with great pace and was a credit to both teams, with Welbeck running out the eventual winners.
With Glastonbury Tor disappearing into the September rain the last of the three matches got underway; a strong Irish Exiles team, featuring a number of Irish U20 players keen to repay the drubbing they had received from the Academy last season started well and applied considerable pressure on the young Army side. This was the ‘first outing’ for both sides and although the cohesion was not quite there the individual skill from both sides was very evident. A tense first half had the Army up at the 40 minutes, scoring three penalties however it was the Exiles that had produced a well worked score to produce the only try of the half.
The second half was full of running rugby, both teams individual flair was starting to gel and a crowd including the RFU senior Vice President enjoyed a flurry of scores. Both teams played great attacking rugby despite the heavy rain and gathering gloom that would have had test umpires offering the light to the batting team. The Army took the victory 26 – 13, the score didn’t reflect the skill level of the Exiles team and with them returning to Aldershot in a few weeks time for ‘round two’ it should be a cracker.
The day was a great success for rugby at the school, Major Mike Atkinson had put in a great amount of work that as is on such a ‘new event’ mostly unnoticed, those that ‘were in the know’ applaud the effort, next year again good sir…….