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Army Claim U23 Title in Style

Royal Navy 9pts—Army 24 pts

The Army U23 team overpowered a spirited Royal Navy 24 pts—9 at Burnaby Road Portsmouth on 2 December. This was a truly whole-hearted performance in drenching rain which, following the 10pts—5 victory against the RAF, sealed the 2011 Inter Services Championship.

The mathematical difference was clear but it was the manner of the win that insisted Reds’ supporters remained outside the clubhouse, accept a soaking and share the discomfort—it was worth every second. From the kick-off skipper Matt Bowman (REME) lifted the spirits and inspired his pack to drive hard and fast. Lock Phil Wheeler (R Anglian) and No8 Ross Edwards (R Welsh) were robust and difficult to handle. The Reds frequently scrummaged magnificently to drive the Matelots off their own ball.

Tight head prop Cameron McLaren (RE) commanding the Lion King position was in dominating form. On six minutes a quick penalty against a slowly retreating Navy defence encouraged Bowman to split the line and bustle his way over in the corner. Full back Lawrence Wadham (PWRR) —one to watch—converted in monsoon conditions.

For thirty minutes the Army patiently built on a series of attacks into the wind to establish a clear rugby advantage. Time and again the Navy had to rally from deep defence to sensibly hoof the ball on the gathering storm towards the Army line. The rugby wasn’t by any means ‘even-stevens’ but dogged Navy defence stifled the scoreboard.Territory was hard won then all too easily lost but the close quarter graft up-front paid huge match benefits.

With the home team forwards on the rack the Army doubled the pressure. Quick thinking at the line out by Wadham released winger Raymond Bishop (R Welsh) who cleared the first trenches before feeding Semi Lave ( RLC ) to scorch a path to the line.

Again Wadham converted. With two converted tries, pegged back by Lewis’ three excellent penalties, the Army led by 14pts—9, but were far from clear at half time. Maybe the wind advantage after the break had been translated in some minds to ‘job done’. The fierce scrummaging went limp, the all-in driving failed to find a second gear and the Navy started dishing it out up front. Too many Army forwards ‘swanned’ around the fringes hoping to pick up the ball for a canter.

The thrust had gone and as Bowman attempted to rekindle the attacking spirit scrum half Morgan Evans (R Welsh) marched to warm the bench.

Mercifully by that time the Navy were spent and unable to take advantage of the numerical superiority. In a lull Wadham added a penalty and Nick Ash (RE) finished off fleet footwork by Lave. The final score of 24pts—9 was a great outcome and reward for some excellent rugby in truly tough conditions.

Next in line is for the three Services to form the Combined Services U23 squad to face Oxbridge U23 at Twickenham on Saturday 28 April—Army Navy Day.

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