The U23’s Inter Service Championships for the 2016/17 season got under way at Aldershot on Wednesday 16th November.
Almost on cue for kick off the heavens opened and the rain settled in to make handling conditions for both young sides to play a running rugby style increasingly difficult.
The energy and enthusiasm levels for this clash of a historic rivalry are always high, with many of the young men taking to the field hoping to impress, for this could be the stepping stone for their service rugby careers into the Senior squads and beyond.
The large and vocal supportive crowd who braved the cold winter evening further fuelled the players passion on the pitch. The Royal Navy were the first to score with an early try which began the score board ping pong throughout the match as the lead was exchanged several times. Only a point separated the two teams at half time, both having scored a try each and the Reds went into the changing rooms 8-7 up.
There was never more than a few points between the teams throughout the match until around the 74th minute when the Royal Navy seemed to seal the victory with their third try of the evening to make the score 11-20 to the Senior Service. The young Reds, although rattled, kept their composure and did not panic. Through a series of well worked phases of play and a sharp eye for a gap scrum half Pte Wheeldon broke through the defence and scored under the posts to set up a very kickable conversion bringing the score to 18-20 with minutes to play.
With the seconds ticking down on the clock there was to be no further score in the match and the result was sealed by referee Nick Marshall blowing his whistle to conclude the evenings proceedings. The after match scenes, elation from the Royal Navy, despair from the Army, was testament to the dedication shown by both sides on the pitch.
The focus now for both services turn to the RAF whom the Army face next Wednesday at Halton and the Royal Navy the following week at Portsmouth. As ever this championship is a closely fought contest and will undoubtedly go down to the wire to decide the winner of the title. Best of luck to all three Services.