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Premiership Final Match Report


17 Port & Maritime Regiment RLC 17 pts—12 2 Royal Welsh

The VEOLIA Army Premiership Final was a cliff hanger. In the league play offs the Welsh had triumphed but in the run-up to the Final the pundits agreed the Final was too close to call.

With five minutes left on the clock the Dolphins had a 5 point lead, the Welsh hammered at the line, the Dolphins defended with head and heart in numbers. The big names had had their say and it was a matter of the Welsh finding a tiny chink—somewhere, anywhere that could lead to five points. Time and again they refused kickable penalties—three points would not lead to glory. It had started a little nervously. The Welsh looked like building a platform for complete forward domination. Budgen and Brown had the scrums sown up; and Delaitamana rampaged off the back.

The Welsh line-out was well organized and scrum half Morgan Evans threw a series of long defence splitting passes. The attacks fizzed, and fizzed some more, but too infrequently went bang.

On ten minutes centre Welsh Turugakula scored to establish some small measure of authority. They could and should have had another hat full, but against the run of the tide the Dolphins fullback Ferguson crossed on 20 minutes and fly half Corderoy converted. The narrow lead was wiped out when wing Mansfield gave the Welsh a 12pts-7 lead at half time. The Welsh were in the ascendancy but far from convincing.

The second half opened with Army and Dolphins wing Magnus flying across the white line. The Welsh remained in cruise mode and stayed there until Maritime full back Ledua crossed for a second unconverted try. At 12pts-17 the Welsh stirred and opened a series of full frontal attacks. Budgen grunted for few metres, Army lock Llewellyn added bulk at the breakdown. The Dolphins might have been tempted to wilt under the onslaught but managed a series of brave last ditch one finger tackles that left the brand new score board dormant.

The arrival of the Dolphin’s Damudamu at No8 was the game-changer. He ran at the Welsh off the back of the set pieces ‘am byth’. The England 7s international had pace, grace and strength out of the tackle. His own support too frequently failed to keep pace but, crucially, the Dolphins were moving forward and the texture of the match changed until the final few minutes when the Dragon found some more fire.

In round terms by then it was five minutes to go and five points the difference. The Welsh attacks led to the Dolphins reverse slope trenches where penalties were conceded in rapid succession. Time and again skipper Read pushed the ball tightly into the corner, the Welsh drove and the Dolphins somehow clung to the life rafts, the flotsam and jetsam—anything to prevent the Welsh crossing.

Only the referee is the judge of time and it seemed hours after the score board had signalled 80 minutes that the Dolphins had to lift themselves for yet another tackle A Welsh spill, a Dolphin’s scrum , a mighty hoof to touch and only then did referee Simon Walker blow full time. The Agony and the Ecstacy followed. The Trophy presentation by Olivier Bret CEO VEOLIA, Willy Wildash President of the Rugby Football Union, Twickenham and Maj Gen Shaun Burley showed the difference between winning and everything else.

The Welsh were gracious in defeat. They have lifted the Army Cup so many times that they knew what it meant to the Dolphins to win at last. Dolphin’s No 10 Charlie Corderoy was the ‘Man of the Match’.

Coach and analyst WO2 Geryn Jones said “We have all waited a long time for this moment. Damu made a difference but it was the efforts of the rugby squad and the whole Regiment that brought the Army Cup to Marchwood”. Someone once said ‘why do we bother with conversions ?’. After this they should know—a Welsh conversion, or penalty, would have turned this cliff hanger on its head.

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