12 Regiment Royal Artillery 13pts Royal Welsh 10
The ‘Queens of the Battlefield’ are the 2014 Kings of Army rugby. In a hotly contested Army Premiership Final the Gunners from 12 Regiment came from behind to claim the Silver Trophy presented by the RFU to the Army Rugby Union in 1921.
Victory was a fitting reward from the ‘team from nowhere’ that had, from the start of the season, trampled on reputations. Through sheer hard work, and a lot of skill, the Thorney Island Gunners overcame the odds.
Both teams fielded a number of Army players but none shone more than Gunner skipper Ken Dowding at tight head prop. He has a solid playing pedigree and this year proved to be a motivational captain. His insistence on individual fitness had clearly filtered into all corners of his team.
The match started somewhat nervously at the gallop, tackling was crisp, ball retention less so. With Army players Paul Llewellyn and Will Jones the Welsh were showing well in the lines-out but the Gunners had the scrum by the scruff of the neck.
Both sides had to settle for a penalty at the interval.
Anyone’s game? The Welsh thought differently. Barely four minutes into the second half, centre Navunidakua crashed over close to the posts. Read then converted.
The Gunners countered almost immediately when full back Mains scythed into a huge gap in the shadow of the posts and touched down, converting his own try.
At 10 pts apiece came the first Welsh mad moment, a ‘Yellow’ and that man Mains stepped up to slot a monster penalty.
The narrow lead galvanised the Gunners and they started to concentrate on retention and squeeze the scrums. The Welsh brought on the Army’s Budgen at prop to stem the tide but it made no difference as the Gunners fired for effect.
It could (I would argue should) have been otherwise. If the Welsh had kicked their penalties. If the Welsh had not earned a ‘Yellow’ to drop to fourteen men and concede 3 pts. If, when not all was lost, Army fly half Read had kept his own council and slotted a relatively simple penalty…. Instead he invited referee Colin Moore to reverse the penalty and an opportunity went begging. Any of those four ‘ifs’ and it could have been different but the Welsh were back on their heels with 7 minutes remaining. The Gunners kept on firing.
Months of sacrifice and grueling training had been undone by seconds of ill-discipline.
Full back Mains was justifiably awarded the Player of the Final Trophy, and well done the Royal Regiment—it was about time they returned to the top.