It was the start of a new season and a new team with only 2 players from last year’s starting line representing the Reds for the weekend. During the closed season our coach, Alfred, went scouting for new talent from across the Army, developing the game at all levels and selecting players with the potential to succeed. At this point we should say farewell to a man mountain “Joe Kava” who was made redundant and is now applying his skills in the civilian sector as a fibre optic engineer, we all wish him well. The team for the weekend had 12 new players to the Army team which all have tremendous potential and a real chance to develop into great 7s players.
Back to Bournemouth and 12 out of 14 new players for selection and ready for the challenges of the weekend. It was business as usual with the normal warm ups for the first match against Red Panda 7s, a select team made up from elite players from the English premiership. What a baptism of fire for the new Reds, Panda 7s from the start were a class act with flowing rugby and skills that were in a different class to ourselves, they ran in 4 tries to the corners in the first half stretching our defence throughout. After the break the coaches clear brief was evident, the second half was very different with 2 tries to 1 and a final score of 32-7 to Red Panda 7s, the Reds defence stood stronger and more importantly they improved during the match.
The next game up was Wooden Spoons made up from elite and 7s circuit players who saw, for the first time, the Reds could be beaten which proved to be correct with the rub of the green, they ran in 3 tries to 2 to give a score of 21-12 at the final whistle. That said, the Reds played better and started to gel as a team, working together and for each other with support play and applying a hard defence. Even with the loss, the Reds could walk off the pitch with their heads held high and more importantly a much better improvement from the initial start with the crowd showing their respect at the final whistle.
The last game of the pool stages was against Storm 7s, made up with the normal circuit players who, like us, had to win to remain in the competition, so the pride was important for both teams to finish with something to salvage from the day. From the start, the Reds were up for the challenge, running in 3 unanswered tries. It was clear that the Reds were focussed and wanting to finish the day on a high, passion and accuracy was evident in abundance. The second half continued in the same direction with the final score 22-12 with the last try coming in from Storm in the last seconds of the game. It was great for the Reds to finish the day positively with lots learnt both on and off the pitch, but most importantly the Reds qualified for the plate knock out stages for Sunday.
Up early and set up at the ground, the Reds capitalised on the lessons learnt the previous day before playing the semi finals against strong component Bryanston Old Boys team who were very impressive during their pool stages with strong forwards and great backs play. They were a team that we had to work hard to beat and thankfully we did 21-12. The difference in the two teams were the Reds gas men (Koms and Sammy) and the hard defence of the complete team putting their bodies on the line with furious defensive drills from the training park.
Next followed the plate finals, up against Carmarthen Warriors who are a well drilled team from Wales which did, over the weekend, include class premiership players. The Reds knew this was going to be a test for their new team and, more importantly, relished the chance to play at this level of competition. However, the team who are developing brought everything to bear on to the opposition and won 24-12. Truly an impressive team spirit with passion and determination. The Reds defence was outstanding which saw possession change hands and capitalised to score tries when it mattered. A fantastic way to finish the weekend, but more importantly for the new team, it was great to see a team develop and grow in stature over the weekend and start believing in themselves.
A lot of lessons learnt this weekend both on and off the pitch, it was great to see a new developing team (90% new) transform into a group which have the right core values to work together as one, supporting each other. Great all round team work for everyone involved.
Finally, thanks to all the supporters who came up to the team over the weekend, it was fantastic to know we have your support as a team but also as an Army and our fallen colleagues who will always be remembered – Thank you.