British Army 23 — 24 French Armed Forces
The bookies took a hammering when the French Armed Forces overtook the Army at the final hurdle in Aldershot. Whilst local punters didn’t quite demand their money back they will now be a little more reluctant to assume that the Arthur Harrison VC Trophy staying in Aldershot was an odds-on bet.
The Army led this engaging contest for all but the final five minutes. There was mostly a single score difference and it was not hard to imagine a French surge and final flourish. It came from an intercepted pass on the half way line when Veredamu Tavite read the Fiji runes, said ‘vernaka’ and coasted under the posts.
The truth is that no one saw this French side arriving in such fine fettle. Their set piece was solid and on occasion they shunted the Army scrum many metres. Their line-out was secure and they were very swift to exert a presence at the breakdown. Scrum half Jonathan Abadie was in quixotic form, choosing the direction to launch the next wave of blue shirts.
This was a vibrant performance by a relatively young and fit French team. They wanted desperately to lay the ghost’ and did it with style.
The Army loaded the pieces, fired and stuttered and fired again. It was a fair performance without having the normal clinical seal. The scrum also had its moments and trolleyed the French at maul after maul. Three good tries were scored by Mattie Dwyer, Chris Leathem and Chris Budgen whilst Owain Davies converted twice.
The margin was never enough for safety as the Army made one final attempt to batter a way forward. Great tackling and rucking created a ‘turnover’ for the Army and allowed one final assault to the French line. The ball never got that far….and the rest is history.
At the death it might have been but it wasn’t as a penalty attempt hit the post. The final surge had been matched by the French last trench defence.
The old chestnut of which French team was going to turn up was answered with great clarity. This time they both did!—and were well applauded from the pitch by a goodly sized crowd.
For the Army it is South Africa next in the Quarter Finals at Aldershot on Monday 19 October at 1600 hrs.