On a traditional British summer wet and windy west country day the Army 7s team headed to Keynsham Rugby Club just east of Bristol for the next stop of their sevens season. Although we are in the middle of the traditional summer sevens season the conditions owed themselves more to a full fifteens fixture in the depths of winter.
The first match of the Army’s pool saw them and the management trudge down from the warmth and shelter of the teams’ gazebos to pitch five where they were to face invitational side DS Smith Recycling. The Reds made an unusual slow start with the windy conditions not seeming to shake off the early morning cobwebs. All the play seemed to be in the Reds half but patience and good ball retention saw the play gradually move up the pitch and tries from Bunny and Zac soon followed to settle the score to something like what we had become accustomed to. The Recyclers were a physical side, contesting for everything and matching the Army crunching tackle for crunching tackle, a break down the wing saw them rewarded with a try from a pass back into play to take the game to 14-7. A further try from Army 7s stalwart Bunny just before half time took the Reds in 21-7 at the break. The tackle rate of the Recyclers continued after half time and they won good turnover ball which resulted in a well worked try which started from in their own 22 bringing the score to 21-14, a little too close for comfort and quite frankly a little too close than what we are used to. The Reds responded immediately with a well worked try from up field scored by Komaiyasa but the Recyclers weren’t done yet and following a good restart the blues were sniping trying everything to crack through the reds defence. The recyclers patience was rewarded with a further try bringing the final score to 26 – 19, time to take stock and look to improvement in the rest of the pool matches.
The final match in the Reds pool was again back on the outside pitches against the Sunset Warriors. A little sunshine was trying to break through but the heavy pitches had soaked up a fair amount of rain, at least the ground was soft for the return of Iggy Putty who is starting to affectionately become known for his ‘breaking like a kit kat’ on the harder surfaces. The Warriors started with intent and surprised the Reds with an early try, calls from the sidelines were to Wake Up and the mite and strength of Joe Kava rallied the response with two tries breaking through numerous defenders on each occasion.
Ben Seru broke from the Reds 22 to run the length of the pitch and bring the score to 19-5 on half time. Seru added his second early in the second half to settle any nerves that may have been on the sidelines in the first half. Workhorse Skipper Gerhard Wessels was linking well with the refreshed Putty sidestepping through the defence to set up returning star from last season Alex Swann for two tries in his debut performance at this year’s tournament. The Reds topped their group with a final group stage win 47 – 5.
On to the knock out stages where the Reds were to face French invitational side ‘Impact’. For those who followed the tournament the previous year will be aware that this stage last year was the undoing of the Reds against another French team, a case of de ja vu would have been a nightmare! The Reds held onto possession from the kick off and in the difficult conditions were patient working the ball around the park to allow the gaps to appear and for Ben Seru to cross for that vital first score. The Reds were holding onto possession but the French defence were sharp and were driving the Army back deeper into our own half, sensing the Reds were unable to break through route one Bunny chipped and collected his own kick to score a second for the Reds. The Frenchs defence was good but the Reds are becoming renowned for theirs too and seeing no way through the French side kicked away possession from within their own 22, a kick that went straight into the arms of speedster Ben Seru who punished the decision with another 7 points. The French saw more possession in the second half but the Army defence was up quickly forcing them to play rugby from in their own 22. The reds were as patience in defence as they had been earlier in attack and slowly the errors came from the French, the Reds capitalised on these mistakes and sealed the victory 35-0 with a further two tries from Wes and Ben Seru respectively.
The evening was drawing in and the storm clouds had gathered, the scene was set for a perfect showdown in the West Country 7s final as the Army faced the best sevens players from the Super Sevens Series in the form of the UK Rugby Sevens ‘Allstars’, selected just for this competition. The tension was clear on the touchlines and the diehard rugby fans that had endured the terrible conditions were in for a cracker of a final. The Allstars came at the Reds firing from all cylinders, they were intelligent and astute playing the conditions with accurate chips through the Army defence seemingly perfectly weighted and timed to allow their runners time to collect neatly in the soggy conditions. The play was all in the Army half and wave after wave of attack from the Allstars was earning them territory one metre at a time, the Reds sensed this was going to be tight and every opportunity had to be capitalised on. Cool heads were required and Bunny reliable as ever sniffed a space down the wing to turn on the accelerator and gas his was to the tryline to secure first points to the Reds.
On a day where the United Kingdom threw everything it could at them, the Army 7s team showed valour and extreme courage beyond that normally expected of a British soldier on the sports field in the face of the enemy. Next stop Newquay, see you all there!