Army 74 pts Royal Navy Nil
The Army Women’s team is a class act and they celebrated their current standing in British rugby with twelve great tries against a Navy team that battled to the final whistle. Had some of the Red’s early passing been less ‘ambitious’ or ‘anxious’, take your pick, it would have been a great deal more.
Navy Women’s rugby has come on leaps and bounds in the past few years but the Reds fielded six international players at Kneller Hall, sufficient to emphasize the gulf that still remains between the two sides.
The Army opened with bullocking runs from props Bee Dawson and Charlie Maxwell which the Navy found hard to handle. The lines-out were dominated by Heidi Silcox and Ellie Gattlin and with a solid scrum driving forward, semi-permanent camps were established deep into Blue’s territory.
Such aggressive direct play opened channels for outside half Gemma Rowland who skilfully manoeuvred the power of Sarah Mitchelson and the awesome pace of Welsh internationals Chantelle Miller and Beth Dainton. Seven slick tries were added to the Army account.
Miller and Dainton had opened the try count but in the first half it was winger Jess McAuley who took the eye. There isn’t much of her—indeed a rather diminutive target–but she can shift and shimmy into the wide open spaces on the right. Quickly gaps ‘morphed’ into chasms as she powered to the line. If it were not for a kindly gentleman in a yellow shirt she would have bagged a rucksack full.
To a great extent the early forward onslaught emptied the Navy’s tanks and directed the opportunities for the Army to ‘think’ attack. Rowland crossed for a couple and kicked 14 points. She has a powerful glide, not difficult to spot, but hell to halt. She is deceptively quick for a back with such a sveldt presence.
Changes from the bench allowed Carrie Roberts, a determined runner at centre to score twice. Full back Katie Hancock and hooker Rae Metters grabbed one each.
This is an accomplished Reds outfit, tip—to—tail, which has enjoyed a great season from the Autumn international against Belgium to the shadow of Twickenham against the Navy. Great credit must go to the backroom pundits led by Team Manager Don Smith and Head Coach Glyn Barraclough.
This was the final Inter Service match for Charlie Maxwell, Sarah Mitchelson and Skipper Jane Leonard who together have laid the foundations of Army Women’s rugby and, vitally, stuck with it until the game has flourished to its current status.
The Army has gallons of young blood coming through and there are exciting times ahead. Not least the trip to the Big Apple in June where, believe me, the standard is very high. No time to relax when you are at the top.