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Army 7s Rock Richmond

Following a training and conditioning camp in Marchwood the Army 7s team headed to the Richmond Athletic ground to kick start their season at Rugby Rocks. Having finished runners up in the previous years tournament the Army had a clear focus, to win. The often unsung heroes of the team arrived early to pitch the team gazebo, nutritional drinks were being made and lined up and the sun was shining, a perfect stage for what promised to be a great day of rugby.

The Army headed up pool C in the mens elite competition along with Loughborough Students and Help for Heroes Wolfpack 7s. The Reds first match against Loughborough was due to kick off at 1140 but unfortunately the students found themselves stuck in traffic, rather than let the opportunity go to waste the management decided to use this as a training match to blow away any cobwebs and run some drills, so Army A in red faced Army B in white, you’d have got good odds for an Army win in their first match. Tournament rules awarded the points as a 28-0 win to the Army as Loughborough missed the kick off.

The second pool match was against Help for Heroes Wolfpack 7s. The afternoon sun was blazing high in the sky and the reds intention was to make a statement to the rest of the competition with their performance in this match. This was done from the start with a try from Jerry Cataki, new to the Army 7s squad this season, inside the opening minute of the match. Excellent ball retention and recycling meant the Wolfpack 7s hardly seemed to have any possession, patience was the key and the gaps started to come with three more tries before half time.

The Reds led 24-0 at half time but the message from Alfred, cool and calm as ever in the glorious heat was to keep focused and more of the same.

The Wolfpack saw more of the ball in the second half but the reds were patient, the conditioning efforts of ‘Suff’ were clearly paying off as covering tackles were being made from everywhere, the Army line stood firm forcing errors from the opposition which could be capitalised on. Ben Seru, returning to form, opened the scoring and in a pattern which mirrored the first half another three tries followed. With conversions as well the Reds ran out winners 50-0, a convincing win some might say but Alfred, a cool man with a very calm exterior, would keep the team focused.

Now the business end of the competition starts with the knock out stages.

Running out winners of pool C the Reds were to face the West Country Cavaliers in the Quarter Finals, a well drilled team not to be underestimated by any means. The tone was set from the off and Jerry Cataki beat his own quickest try of the day from the previous match to score on 24 seconds, with the conversion good from Zac Vakasawaqa the Reds took an early lead, 7-0. The Cavaliers held onto possession from the restart but good Army pressure saw them playing rugby deep in their own half, the West Country No 11 was a skilful player and saw a hint of an opportunity to break down the wing but good covering by Zac saw him brought into touch.

The reds retained possession from the lineout and a trio of Sapper tries followed from Wes Wessels, Zac Vakasawaqa and Ben ‘Subaru’ Seru. With all conversions good the Reds led 28-0 at half time. The second half saw the Cavaliers playing more rugby in our half, again the reds showed patience and hard work in defence with some crunching tackles on the hard sunbaked surface which drew ‘oooohs’ from the appreciative crowd. Ben Seru opened the second half scoring just under 10 minutes played and with the conversion took the score to 35-0.

7s rugby is furious and fast paced at the best of times but in the heat was even more energy sapping, Alfred rang the changes and with the fresh legs cam another two tries bringing the final score to 47-0.

Onto the semi finals where we faced our old friends Esher with whom we have enjoyed many a tussle on the 7s circuit in previous seasons. As Esher took the kick off it was important to get a good start, Ben Seru opened the scoring just inside 2 minutes to give the reds a 5-0 lead. The reds didn’t have it all their own way and Esher were holding onto possession however, ever the work horse Captain Gerhard Wessels was first to every break down and the reds were winning good turnover ball.

Ben Seru was a scoring machine and added another 5 points with the conversion from Zac Vakasawaqa took the reds to 12-0. Esher were sniping and broke away to score an almost certain try but again the covering tackles came, even in the wide open pitch when it looked like no-one would catch them the reds never let them go and try saving tackles were made. Half time, 12-0 to the Army, time to get some much needed fluids on board and get some air in the lungs.

The second half started with early possession to Esher who were playing rugby deep in the Army half, camped on our try line looking to secure some points but again the defence stood strong. As in the first half Seru opened the scoring in the second to take it to 17-0. On came the fresh legs for the Reds. Esher won the ball from a lineout just inside the reds half to break down the wing and score in the corner, with the conversion good it was 17-7, not over by any means. The clock was ticking and the reds were sniping, a break by Bruce (Putty) down the centre of the pitch for what we all thought was a certain try but was just knocked on before
the line, the referee called time and the Reds awaited the result from the second semi final to see who they would face in the final.

The grande finale to the days rugby competitions was the Men’s elite cup final kicking off just after 1900, the sun had cooled and the grand stand provided some welcome shade over the pitch for the players. A large crowd had gathered for the evenings entertainments along with those who had who had supported all day to watch what promised to be a cracking final between the British Army and French side Pyrenees.

The French had impressed with their pace and flair all day and had significant support with them in the grand stand. The Army were to kick off and as had been all day the chase from the back line at the restarts was excellent. Play was all in the French half but unlike previous matches during the day there wasn’t the early score from the reds to settle the nerves on the sidelines. A penalty to the French resulted in them kicking to touch deep into the Army 22, they secured possession from the lineout and were looking to cross the Army line.
Frantic defence saw the ball carried over by the Reds giving the French an excellent attacking opportunity with a scrum on our 5m line. The Army line stood firm and the French, unable to break through the defensive tackles chipped the ball through with a little too much weight behind it, 22 drop out to the reds, sighs of relief on the sidelines, but only for a moment.

With over five minutes played there was still no score, exactly what you would expect from a good final, it wasn’t helping the nerves of both team’s camps on the sidelines but the nerves held and Ben Seru crossed the line, 5-0 to the reds. The tails were up then and the hunger was evident, with half time approaching the tries flowed with another in quick succession from Cataki and Ben Seru completing his hatrick, along with two successful conversions the reds went into half time leading 24-0. The main message from Alfred, keep focused and more of the same. The second half started much as the first did, with French pressure on the Army try line, the French would not surrender and were looking for chinks in the reds armour. Patience is a virtue and patience paid off for the reds as they capitalised on French mistakes, Wes broke to open the second half scoring and with Zac adding the extras it was 31-0. It seemed a tall order for the French to come back now but they did not give in, roused by their vocal chorus in the stand they worked a gap and showed pace down the wing to secure 5 points. Yes the French had pace but so did we, in abundance, and their try was responded to straight away with try machine Ben Seru crossing the line to make it 36-5 with 3 minutes to play. Rallying cries came from both camps on the sidelines, the French took possession from the restart which they kicked away , opportunity favours the brave they say and the chip paid off as they were able to collect the ball and sneak in for another try, the conversion was good this time and with seconds left the reds wanted the final word. Army Captain Wes Wessels whose work rate had been phenomenal all day broke through the centre, with a fair way to go the French were determined to chase him down but with the legs pumping and head back he crossed the line much to the delight of the Army camp on the sidelines and the crowd. Full time 42-12 to the Reds in what had been a fantastic final and somewhat more competitive than the score line may suggest.

Phase one complete, next stop Bournemouth 7s where the Reds are looking to retain their title for a third consecutive year, come along and support the Reds.

Army Squad:

  1. Kava
  2. Laqakoro
  3. Nayacavou
  4. Cataki
  5. Seru
  6. Putty
  7. Wessels
  8. Bainvalu
  9. Magnus
  10. Vaka
  11. Tamatawale
  12. Vakasawaqa
  • Head Coach – Cpl A Vakacokovanua
  • Team Manager – Capt J Voss
  • Assistant Manager – WO2 S Smith
  • Assistant Manager – Sgt D Percy
  • Physic – Capt C Chacksfield
  • Conditioner – Sgt C Suffield

By Kimberley Fowke

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