ROSSLYN PARK SELECT 29pts—ARMY 22
The Army arrived at Rosslyn Park with a team determined to prove they were good enough to wear the Reds’ jersey at Twickenham. Players with tens of caps were ‘up for it’ in equal measure to those who had just entered the pink zone. They were met by a Park Select XV reinforced by numbers from Quins, Wasps and even Bath ‘on the wages’ that meant there was always a point to prove. Game on!
Park opened smoothly with flashes of excellence. The backs were decidedly quick, showed pro-skills but, vitally, came up against a determined Army defence that covered collectively. The Army also showed pace and each man stood his ground.
Flow was limited by the whistle. Difficult to see from the touch what drew the referee’s attention but as far as the Army was concerned he found plenty to cause him angst. This limited attack options, or indeed any options, for long passages and the Park were adroit at using each stoppage to gain acres of ground or restart quickly. Either way it put the Army on the back foot and placed a premium on gritty defence.
From the trenches names poked their heads over the parapet. The set pieces were sound with newcomer Will Jones (R Welsh) fitting in well at No8. Easy to criticize hookers these days but Pete Austin (RA) was bang on target (for a Gunner ?) at the line-out and Steve George (WG) was able to show his aerial skills. Together with the mobile ever thrusting Ronan Bolger (RLC), he had a fine driving game.
Jones and No6 Maccu Koroiyadi (RE) took the ball forward strongly and yet again Rob Lennox (Scots) showed up in the tight and frequently bridged the continuity gap. With the heavy cavalry providing a forward edge the Army might be accused of going ‘too wide—too soon’ but hey-ho they were there to show their paces and ability to make the most of a tight situation.
No9 Tom Chennell (REME) was quick and jigsawed well with the returning James Read (R Welsh). The Park defence limited opportunities outside except in the final quarter when only tremendous defence held the Army at bay. James Dixon (RE) at No10 for the second half was on song and pound for pound tackled harder than most.
Because it stifled play it must be said that the referee had little empathy with a floodlit game just under the Heathrow flight path on a freezing Wednesday night in February. He was probably correct, as distinct from being right, to award a string of penalties against the Army. By common consent( from the crowd at my end) there was a whiff of inconsistency. Maybe in the fullness of time (well, nine weeks !) the ‘death- by-whistle’ experience could prove a bonus.
Thank you Park, it was wonderful to visit the Club that maintains its great tradition and camaraderie. As a point of interest—Rosslyn Park boasts two past members who won the Victoria Cross. You can’ beat that—unless of course you’re in the Army.