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Army Masters Training Camp – Edinburgh – 15 – 18 March 2012

The Army Masters in preparation for the Inter Services competition travelled to Edinburgh for a short but intensive training camp. The squad under the stewardship of head coach SSgt Tiny Baker and backs coach SSgt Taff Reed started the camp with a tough training session at Dreghorn Barracks on the Thursday afternoon to get the journey out of the legs, the coaches running through some of the areas in defence and attack that needed working on after our last two games had ended in defeat.

The last game being a heavy defeat to a Kew Occasional side at Richmond has still left a mark on the squad as one of the biggest defeats the Army Masters have ever suffered.

So there is a still lot to consider for the coaching staff and players to work on with the starting 15 berths against the RAF Vultures still up for grabs for those who really want it. It’s not all about the Rugby and after a visit to the magnificent Edinburgh Castle early on the Friday morning the squad visited the Royal British Legion poppy making factory on Warriston Road in Edinburgh.

Founded by Field Marshal Earl Haig to provide practical support to ex-Servicemen, and their families following the First World War, he started a number of ex-Service organisations, including The Earl Haig Fund for Scotland.

In 1926 his wife Lady Haig established Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Scotland which consisted of two men making poppies using paper and scissors. However, demand for poppies and for employment for disabled ex-Servicemen has grown over the years and the factory we visited now makes poppies throughout the year and it was great privilege for the squad to meet the ex servicemen now working at the factory and get a insight into how the wreaths and poppies are manufactured.Most of the squad also got a chance to put some poppies together and the general consensus from the experts was for them not to give up their day jobs.

Both the squad and the workers in the factory enjoyed the visit with many of the squad when finding out where the ex-serviceman had served, sharing stories of people and places both known and visited and that military common bond was shared with lots of old tales and experiences being remembered.

Our thanks go to all the staff at the factory who made it such any interesting visit and also to the Royal British Legion for the generous sponsorship of the Army Masters once again this year, and the emblem of the poppy is worn by all members of the squad and management on our Masters kit with a huge amount of pride.

The Friday afternoon found the squad once again back on the training pitch in Dreghorn Barracks under the grey clouds of a wet and cold Scottish afternoon putting in them hard hours of work to ensure the Inter Services Cup is retained once again this year.

Army Masters vs. Forth Valley Fossils

Boroughmuir Rugby Club

Saturday 17 March 2012

It was with some relief that the weather had improved on the Saturday morning when we found ourselves at the well appointed sports complex at Boroughmuir Rugby Club for a fixture against the Forth Valley Fossils a veteran’s side that is made up of players who have played at a very high level in the Scottish leagues.

A morning kick off had to be called as the Boroughmuir 1st team had a league fixture in the afternoon on the main pitch. The Fossils kicked off and from the start obliviously wanted to test our defence mettle with a series of drives into the Masters 22 however good defence work at the breakdown led to a turnover which allowed the Masters to clear. Its was now the Masters turn to test the Fossils defence with SSgt Dave Goddard looking for work and making good yards testing the opposition defence and it was from one of these runs that Goddard was able to release SSgt Errol Jones who beat the defence to score in the corner for the first try of the match.

Sgt Rob Smart made a very good conversion from a difficult angle to put the Masters in the box seat 7-0. From the restart the Fossils make the most of some handling errors by the Masters to get it the Masters 22, however some over eagerness by the Fossils leads to a penalty which allows the Masters to clear the line.

A great turnover by WO2 Neil Griffiths and more good work from the every busy Goddard allows space for Cpl Nabs Nabakeke to show his speed and go over for a try under the posts. Smart kicks the extras 14-0 for the Masters. The scrum is an area were a experienced Fossils front row are challenging hard but this is matched by Maj Ewen Cameron and WO1 Shaun Collins and even when the Fossils secure possession they are going backwards, there is then a mix up between the Fossils number 8 and 9 and Cpl Atunsia Lalauvaki needs no second invitation to scoop up the ball and go in for a score which Smart then adds the conversion to make the score 21-0 after 30mins of play.

The Fossils are stung into action and again put pressure on the Army line but the defence is strong and the hours on the training pitch are now paying dividends with the defence line being well organised. WO2 Darrell Cooper then turns defence into attack with a nice break linking up with Smart to go about 60 yards up the pitch, scramble defence by the Fossils slows the ball, but just as it is coming out again the Referee has to stop the game as Masters open side flanker Capt Cam Hastie has an injury which caused those close by some concern (Later diagnosed as cracked ribs). He is replaced by LCpl Rack Rakabu in the back row. From the restart scrum Masters attack again with Jones running strong and hard and the Fossils having to use 2-3 defenders to bring him down. The Masters sniff a score but the Fossils defence hold firm this time and they mange to clear the line.

Big first up tackles from both sides keep Russ Booth and Sgt John Santos busy patching up players from both sides. A good solid scrum by the Masters allows the backs to do a planned move from the training ground which lets Jones in for his second try; Smart still has his kicking boots on for a 28-0 lead just before half time. Still time though for the Fossils again to threaten the Masters try line but some great turnover work by the forwards allows the Masters to steal the ball and clear.

Half time and so a few changes with Lalauvaki being replaced by SSgt Bongo Davies at scrum half. Message from the coaching staff and skipper SSgt Gary Windle is to keep the tempo up and keep going through the phases and never give the Fossils a sniff of a try. Straight from the restart the Masters get into the Fossils 22 the referee awards a penalty for handling on the ground, quick thinking and hands by Goddard allows him to pass to Copper who goes over for a score. Smart makes the kick 35-0.

The Fossils come back and again threaten the Army line but not even a cameo appearance by Lt Col Simon Orr Director of Masters Rugby for the Fossils at front row can stop the Masters from breaking from deep with the classy Cooper and Smart doing good work allowing Jones to go over once again with Smart adding the extras 42-0. Its time for some changes with SSgt Mark Eastley and SSgt Seiriol Hughes replacing Cameron and Collins in the front row and Maj Jamie O’Mara on for Capt Dave Thomas in the second row. Fossils still working hard for a score and also making full use of their bench but the Masters first up tackles are making it hard for the opposition to get that score. Good carries from Hughes and then Eastley who scores a classic front row try crashing over from about ten yards out with defenders being brushed aside.

Smart shows he is human and puts one wide 47-0. Maj Tom Wood is on for the ever busy Masters skipper Windle at hooker who has had a big game leading from the front throughout the fixture. Still time for the Masters to go looking for another try with the forwards all now getting a chance to carry against a tiring Fossils pack, once again good drives and rucking by Eastley and Maj Andy Davie who’s pass to Jones then allows him to go over again for a try. Jones always seems to be on hand to finish and this is his forth try of the game, like a fine wine he is just getting better with age. A final score of 52-0 reflects the dominance of the Masters but fair play to the Fossils who never made it easy for the Masters particularly up front.

A nice touch after the game was made by the Forth Valley Fossils who donated their match subs to the Royal British Legion and have promised to put up a stronger side next season if required to do so, showing Scottish Rugby still has lots of heart.

Well done to WO2 Mark Kane for all his hard work both on and of the park in organising the training camp. We now look forward to the next and last game before the Inter Services against Richmond Heavies on Friday evening 30 March 12 in Aldershot.

Army Masters head coach SSgt “Tiny” Baker commented after the game:

“A successful training camp on the whole with a good couple of days training culminating in the match against ‘The Fossils’ on the Saturday. Although they (The Fossils) were not the opposition we expected it did enable us to see our players working in different combinations and adapting the game plan to suit the conditions.’

Report by WO 2 Jim Evans

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