British Army Masters Rugby – World Master Games Turin Italy 2013
The main focus for the Army Masters 2012/13 season as with all service teams had been the defence of the Inter Services title, but once that was secured after good performances to retain the title for third year in a row all minds started to focus on the World Master Games been held in the Italian city of Turin. The Masters had left the games in Edmonton in 2005 with a Silver Medal this was followed up with a Gold Medal secured in Sydney in 2009.
So 2013 was always a year that had a special importance to the squad with the defence of that medal. The World Masters Games is one of the most important world sporting events for sports people over the age of 30, involving a number of participants which is four times higher than a summer edition of the Olympic Games. No other event in the world is able to attract so many participants as the World Master Games.
The over 35’s Rugby competition was run with two pools of 4 teams with the top 2 of each pool going through to the semi finals. In Army Masters pool were three Italian sides whereas the other pool had a more international favour and contained one of the other favourites for the medal the Australian side Phantom Fossils. The first game was against Thakatani Asti Rugby Club who were defeated 30-10 on a very hot afternoon at the Stade de Grugliasco, this victory was followed upon consecutive days by easy wins over Zeroll ASD and Ivera RC. So as the winner of the pool the Masters went through to play the runners up of the other pool Old Highlanders Rugby Club who had lost narrowly to the Australians. The Highlanders were the local club on whose ground the competition was being held on, so they were up for the challenge, but a strong start from the Army Masters with tries from SSgt Dave Goddard RE and Cpl Bruno Green RE settled any early nerves. Maj Camie Hastie AAC Captain for the Masters playing in the back row also scored a good try, that was followed up with further scores from Capt Mark Bragg RLC and SSgt Gareth Williamson RLC which meant the Masters went in at the break 30 points to the good. The second half was a frustrating affair with the Italians doing what they do best and that is slowing the game down. There was another score for the Masters when WO2 Stu James RE scored a good try after some good work from the Masters backline after a quick turn over by the forwards.
So after a couple of days rest on the evening of Friday 9 August the Army Masters lined up once again against Thakatani Asti after the Italians had surprisingly beaten the Phantom Fossils in the other semi final. There was much national and local media interest in the game and a large crowd of not just local rugby fans but also other sporting competitors from the games turned out in force to watch the final. In the early exchanges of the first half scores from two individual pieces of skill and strength by SSgt Dave Goddard was the only thing that separated the teams. However with the Masters doing all the attacking, gaps started to appear in the Italian defence and Cpl Bruno Green RE exploited the space made available to score and give the Masters a 15-0 half time lead. In the second half there were further tries from scrum half SSgt Jimmy Newton REME and player of the tour SSgt Billy Moore RE. There were also tries from WO2 Mark Kane RAPTC, Hastie and another from Green as the Italians started to fade late in the second half, which meant the Army Masters retained the Gold Medal with a final score of 45-0. With many of the present squad now leaving the Army or retiring from playing Rugby, it will be for the next generation of players coming through to pick up the challenge of defending the Masters title in Auckland New Zealand in 2017.
Head Coach SSgt Tiny Baker commented after the game:
With ten uncapped players in the squad of 25 the first effort was to gel the players and after a couple of sessions it was clear that the new squad was going to be a formidable team to contend with. The laws that the competition was being played under actually played into our hands as I believe we were one of the fitter of the teams taking part. After the first match, where the players were getting used to the officials and their interpretations, our support and phase play proved difficult for the other teams to contend with. We played very attractive rugby that won over the sometimes partisan spectators.
This was a successful tournament for us as we have picked up a few possible players for the next Inter Service Squad and the Masters have taken the name of British Army Rugby once more onto the World stage. We have made some new friends and have also had a few invites to other Rugby competitions.
Match report by: WO2 Jim Evans