Worcester Cavaliers 16pts—Army 8
Chris Budgen once again rolled back the years to generate a great up-front performance against Worcester Cavaliers. Skipper for the night, role model of the decade, he plunged forward leaving Worcester players sitting on their Sixways grarse. Together with Pete Austin and Ricky Reeves, Budgie gave the home team a front row master-class in the meaning of scrum power just where it hurts.
Dave Bates and Darrell Ball were mighty in the engine room. Back row of Fiji international Maccu Koroiyadi, Ledua Jope with the ever present Chris Mundy at No7 added the icing. Each in turn generated cohesion and plugged the gaps, and vitally drove into contact with sufficient purpose to permit the arrival of the heavy mob. It was particularly warming to see Jope both back from the Falklands and back to his driving best at No8.
Lack of aerial power against some towering Cavaliers at the back of the line out was punished when, on a dry night, the home team frequently ‘went long’. Their swift feed and fluency around the hinge required a certain amount of scrambling as they fed their very slick backs, particularly senior squad centre Andy Symons at centre. Scramble or not, and with great team spirit, it worked.
For quite lengthy periods the Army was pinned down in their ‘22’ but in a far from one sided match the counter-attack was always ‘on’. The Cavaliers controlled the lion’s share of the possession but despite assault after assault the Army’s close defence remained watertight—as much a matter of sheer courage as military organization. First time tackling was top class and cover tackling in the narrowest of spaces was even better.
The willingness to convert defence into attack produced a moment of genius as Private Tamatawale eluded layers of Cavaliers defence to sprint and twist fully 40 m to the line. He was almost caught 5m out but that is another point for the coaching team……
As the Army emptied the bench there was a clear demonstration of strength in depth. Warren Ross-Allen, Craig Fillier and ‘Turkish’ Titchard Jones were smack on the money as were Will Jones and Ronan Bolger. Coach Axel Rees is spoilt for choice in the turbine house and he has hard decisions to make in the six weeks pre Twickenham. Tom Chennell was as smooth as ever.
Although the Army narrowly went down 16 pts–8 to a pro / semi pro outfit, just maybe 9 pts went begging and it remained touch and go right up until the final whistle. Old adversary and friend Mark Hewitt of the Royal Marines thought that was the best Army team seen at Worcester—well that’s as maybe, its going to get better.