The Army U23 side drew first blood beating the Navy by 25 pts – 14 in the opening round of the Under 23 Inter Services challenge at Portsmouth.
The Army victory owed much to a mature performance by the pack where flanker and skipper Rob Burnell (Coldstream Guards) led his eight from the point. Successive well supported drives deep into the heart of the Navy defence created many platforms for the Army backs to flourish which they did in fits and starts.
The half back pairing of Morgan Evans (Royal Welsh) and James Dixon (RE) generated sufficient time and space for a well tuned centre attack to penetrate. Ratu Bulumakau (Scots) and Jack Gray (RA) are exciting runners and maybe the Army could have expected more. At least wings John Lewis (REME) and Coran Ashworth should have been given a greater sniff of the line.
Only late in the game was Lewis able to grab his opportunity to show blistering pace and flair through a flotilla of Blue shirts to crash down by the posts.
The Army was helped by a constant feed from the set pieces. Kris Smith (Welsh Guards) and Lewis Bean (2 RIFLES) at lock obliterated the lines-out and it was surprising the Navy continued to go for touch. Both are constructed physically and mentally to have a bright future.
A towering catch and drive led to a cleverly worked opening try for scrum half Evans. Evans who has Army Reds experience is an excellent sniper who chose his moment to ‘tap and go’ on 7 minutes. His partnership with James Dixon might hold the key to the Army’s future.
Make no mistake this was a motivated Navy team who played some hard attractive rugby but, under the cosh and forced to turn in defence, they threw away too many penalties. Tom Lowe with a cool head slotted five from varying ranges and angles for a total of 15 points. That the Army elected to kick its points demonstrated a mature footballing mind. Too often in the modern game players in decision making positions forget that the team with the most points wins.