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The Army Masters were beaten for the first time this season as they went down 47-28 to the English Fire Brigade.

Freezing conditions in Aldershot meant a late venue change to Tidworth, and  it was the away side who came out hotter.

There were plenty of early handling errors in the cold conditions with a series of scrums in the opening five minutes, but it was the visitors who took the lead when full-back Lewis Allen sent Kieran Hewgill over on the right.

The Masters – who had previously beaten the Pacific Islanders (25-7) and HM Prison Service (32-20) – responded and had the opportunity to equalise via an interception, only for an inside ball to fail to go to hand five metres out.

The Red Shirts then had a couple of close range line-outs, but they were firstly stopped just short before then being held up over the line.

And they were made to pay for their profligacy, the Fire Brigade going up the other end of the pitch and forcing a goal-line drop-out of their own.

From there, they forced a penalty and after a strong carry from second row Callum Spires, a clever pass inside allowed impressive No. 8 Hewgill to double his tally to the left of the uprights.

Things got worse for the Army soon after, the visitors making the first mistake by overthrowing a line-out inside their opponents’ 22, only for a knock-on to gift the ball back before they crossed from close range.

A fourth try without reply arrived when Allen stepped inside before a strong hand-off ushered him over the whitewash, but the hosts got off the mark when they burrowed over from near the line.

However, the away side replied outside centre Zac Mann threw a couple of dummies en route to running in from 35 metres, albeit the Masters grabbed a second converted score again from close range.

With the Fire Brigade having landed four of their five shots at goal they led 33-14 at the interval, and despite the Army having a couple of scoring chances early in the second period – a long-range drop goal falling short and left before a turnover was conceded five metres out – they moved further in front when Spires took a nice pass from fly-half Mitch Pinkus to dot down under the posts.

The stand-off kept up his impressive night from the tee, but the hosts claimed a third seven-pointer with a nice move from a five-metre line-out reducing the deficit to 19 points.

Any hopes of a fabulous fightback were effectively ended when the Red Shirts were reduced to 14 men following a breakdown infringement, and the Fire Service’s seventh try arrived when scrum half Luke Watson picked up a loose ball which came out the back of an Army set-piece to cruise home on the right.

To their credit the hosts battled right to the end, and they had the final word – albeit a consolation – when breaking a tackle from close range for another converted try.

Army Masters next travel to Torbay Sharks at Teignmouth RFC on Friday, February 9 (7.15pm).

Words © Richard Ashton

All images – Alligin Photography © Lee Crabb


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