Army 21 pts— RAF 7
The Army U23 team overcame a determined Royal Air Force XV at Aldershot on 26 November. Although this was a ‘dead rubber’ both teams put in a whole-hearted performance for a small but noisy crowd. The tackling warmed a cold Winter night.
The Army opened robustly with skipper Parkins at lock, and the back row of Parsons, Lamont and Murphy forcing the ball through the defence to set up attacking positions deep in air space.
Distribution was slick as half backs Cannon and Peck sought to stretch the RAF left and right. Peck at No 10 showed he is a dangerous runner with a quick eye and a powerful surge to frequently draw more than his fair share of the defence. Both centres Coombs and O’Reilly were keen to get forward but were more often than not shackled by the Light Blues as they attempted to beat ‘yet one more defender’.
Had the passing been crisper and the man with the ball placed a greater trust in his team mates and the support that thundered up behind—all big ‘ifs’– the score sheet could have been much healthier.
As it was the mathematical difference became clear step-by-step but in many ways it flattered the Army or at least camouflaged the manner in which the Airmen were willing to attack, almost at all costs.
A passage out of the Army ‘22’ had to be hard won but then, all too easily, lost by poor handling and a death-wish to hoof the ball down field—only to find an airman willing to attack.
The apparent urge to give the ball away placed unwelcome pressure on the Army close quarter defence —they survived with great courage and stamina– only for the ball to be re-hoofed back to the RAF to have another go.
For thirty minutes the Army patiently built on a series of drives to gain a territorial position from where the ‘back three’ could reach the line but the RAF stood firm and were able to counter on poor Army handling.
Time and again the RAF rallied from deep defence sensibly to lift the ball towards the Army line. In turn the Army showed that they had the determination to defend with centre O’Connor frequently providing a one-man last trench. Only dogged Army resistence stifled the RAF side of the scoreboard.
With both defences having a good match, but then tiring, the Army back three were able to show some form.
Campey on the wing is a strong elusive mover who had the measure of the air defence and crossed the line on 15 minutes. It required an hour of up-down play before he had a similar opportunity when again he split the defence open wide with the best individual carry of the match. In the meantime No8 Murphy touched down a forward rumble which more or less sealed the result.
Miller No 14 and Wilson at full back were also itching to attack but too frequently had to witness a breakdown before the ball arrived. Miller showed he could be dangerous whilst Wilson was reliable and kicked eleven points.
Army v RAF might have been a ‘dead rubber’ but both teams showed the match was very much alive. Next in line is for the three Services to form the Combined Services U23 squad to face Oxbridge U23 at Twickenham on Saturday 30 April—Army Navy Day.