Army U23 39 – RAF 3
Job well done and a just reward for hard graft from units, the players, coaches and managers.
Flashes of true rugby characterized this very successful Army performance. Much of the play on a cold November night kept the pack warm with serial boshing, sometimes at the expense of the firepower on the overlap.
In the search to grind down the opposition unforced errors sometimes neutralized such a strategy. The Army was fortunate that from the second quarter the RAF were on their knees and ill positioned to counter attack.
An early try by fly half James Dixon (RE) demonstrated what the Army light cavalry could do. Maybe that was a false dawn for thereafter too many joined the queue to score. Individual Airmen had different ideas and tackled relentlessly.
After Dixon’s gem it took another fifteen minutes before full back Tom Lowe (Int) slotted a penalty.
A 14 pt lead at half time had probably settled the direction of the game and the Championship but wisely another Tom Lowe penalty was allowed to put the outcome beyond doubt.
In the third quarter the Plan A uber-bosh came good. The RAF pack had visibly wilted and an eight man blast forced No6 Alex Biggs (Royal Signals) over.
Hooker Pete Austin (RA) and lock Lewis Bean (Rifles) put in mighty performances at the heart of the pack. Skipper and flanker Rob Burnell (Coldm Guards) was an ever present force. Burnell is a big fast man with a ‘rip roaring’ presence, a strong sense of direction and good hands. He operated efficiently as the first line of attack and ran well for his try. Maybe the idea of fixing him between scrum half Steffan Wilson (RE) and James Dixon’s attacking flair was questionable.
A cunning plan from the technical area led to two tries for replacements Alex Stevenson (Int) and Siva Naulago (Yorks). They made a big difference both to the accuracy and tempo of a match that was, of course, already won.
Tom Lowe could always provided a cushion. He is a genuine all-round footballer and prestigious goal kicker who scored a total of 29 pts in the Championship. He stood out as the player who could today move seamlessly into the ‘A’ Team and from there who knows?
After the match one wise old pundit was heard to say “flabbergasted”. It could have been for a number of reasons. The pack played to its strengths but the quality in the backs, largely underused, sadly remains a mystery. Flabbergasted ? — from some angles maybe fair enough, but the Army on that night had a job to do and are the 2013 Under-23 Champions.
Well done team.
you can watch the video highlights of the match here on the Army Rugby Union Video Site