The Liberty Cup is a tournament played in memory of those who perished on 9/11 and for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the Fight Against Terror since. The competition brings together teams from around the globe to support our fellow service members. It was therefore a particularly fitting finale the Army Women’s tour of North America.
The team spent a couple of days preparing 2 teams for the tournament, with the ARU(W) entering both the 7’s and 15’s competitions. The Team Manager, Maj Don Smith had the opportunity to show his 7’s prowess and work with our 7’s Skipper, Capt Gemma Rowland preparing the experienced and talented squad. This left the remaining coaching staff to work with Skipper Cpl Jane Leonard and Vice Skipper Sgt Sarah Mitchelson to prepare the 15’s Squad. Both Skipper and Vice Skipper were determined that the team would perform, as this would be last time for both of them to pull on a Red Jersey competitively for the Army.
The teams arrived at Floyd Bennett Aviator Sports field in good time to prepare for the first matches. The temperature had stepped up again and the teams struggled to find a shaded area for match preparation and to spend the day. The Medical team and management worked their magic, as they had done all tour, and a suitable, if not small area was commandeered for all the players’ needs.
After the opening introductions it was time for the 15’s team to take the field. With 2 teams in the competition both the 15’s and 7’s teams squad size was reduced; meaning that every available player had to be utilised. Even the tour Sergeant Major and Team Medic WO2 Max Bowley had to dust off her boots and be prepared to take the field.
Everything went to plan; the 15’s side took to the field and cracked on at the same tempo they had finished a week ago against the U23’s. A win in the first game against the current cup holders and an opportunity to unload the bench set the team up well for the second game. The team was back on the pitch in under an hour; with the tempo remaining high and providing an opportunity for Bowley to show some of the players that she is not just a good Medic, but ‘the girl can play a bit’.
The US Marine Corps team were particularly impressed with the two performances from the 15’s team and surprised that only 2 of the players had played International Rugby.
Time for the 7’s team; led by Rowland with 3 fellow Internationals in the squad to take the field. The crowd were suitably impressed with their performance; great defensive patterns, forcing turn over ball and allowing the team to run running in a host of stunning tries.
If the US Marine Corps were impressed with the 15’s performances they must of been amazed at the 7’s team; the girls played a classy, attractive rugby, but were clinical in attack and aggressive in defence.
The 15’s team played their final game and finished in style; running in a number of quality tries in the process.
The 7’s team closed the tournament and put on another great performance, playing some fantastic rugby in the shorter version of the game.
At the end of the day the teams had been successful in winning both tournaments.
There was no doubt about it; Rugby was the winner. All involved with the tour felt privileged that they had the opportunity to take part in the Liberty Cup 2016.
So the Rugby was over for 2016 ARU(W) USA tour. There was just a day of sightseeing left before it was time to pack up, head home to the UK, and start preparing for season 2016/17. There is no time to stand still.
The end of the tour also signalled the retirement of 4 players and stalwarts of the team:
Maj Charlie Maxwell who has been a constant for so long will be sorely missed, but not by opposition Tight Heads.
Sgt Dani Phan, who has excited spectators with her blistering pace evasive running and fierce tackling throughout her time in a Red Shirt.
The Vice Captain, Sgt Sarah Mitchelson, who is one of the best, yet under-rated, 12s in the country. Luckily for Army Women’s Rugby she will remain on board as the Backs Coach for 2016/17.
Finally the Captain, Cpl Jane Leonard, who has been an inspiration to so many players both on and off the field. Her passion and commitment has to be seen to be believed. Always leading by example and from the front. She is an absolute Tour de Force. We wish her well as she leaves the Army to start her new career.
Ladies we thank you all. You have all been so influential as players and ensured ‘the shirt is in a better place’.