On a very cold windy evening at Paignton RFC, Devon, the Army Masters were in unchartered waters as they took on an unknown Torbay Sharks side. This fixture was always going to be a test for the Masters as the Sharks were out to ‘sink their teeth’ into the Masters after last year’s defeat in Aldershot. Knowing that the Sharks were after a scalp the Masters prepared well, developing their game plan during a couple of excellent training days in Aldershot preceding the Friday night game. The Sharks turned up in force and it turned out to be toughest fixture the Masters have played so far this season.
To the credit of both teams they were fired up from the off and looking to play quick, physical running rugby. It was the Masters who found themselves in deep waters early in the first half, with the Sharks running hard at the Masters and putting pressure on them and using the wind to gain territory.
It was clear that the Sharks meant business and this was going to be a long tough physical game for the Masters. The Masters defence was strong, dealing with everything that was thrown at them. It wasn’t long before the first penalty was awarded to the Sharks who kicked towards the corner. With a five meter lineout to the Sharks this was going to be a testing time for the Masters who showed grit, control, and determination, disrupting the lineout and forcing it backwards.
Again the pressure was applied by the Sharks forcing the Masters to knock on under pressure. The scrums were fairly even on both sides and in this instance; the Sharks retained the ball, testing a very resilient Masters defence. This Masters defensive set resulted in a turnover creating the opportunity for the Masters to clear their lines with a break from their own 22. With some great ball handling from both forwards and backs, the Masters scored the only points of the first half 5-0.
Half time saw the coaches ring a couple of changes. Again the game started very much in the same way as it did in the first half with the Sharks forwards and backs piling on the pressure; however the Masters dealt with this pressure very well and we had the wind this half.
When the Masters had the ball they looked sharp with the backs cutting holes through the Sharks defence, supported by strong forward play to ensure the ball was recycled. There were occasions of brilliance by the backs only to be let down by either the last pass or just taking it on one too many phases. The Masters eventually made the most of the opportunities that came their way, which resulted in a score in the corner 10-0.
With only ten minutes to play the Sharks knew the game was far from over and again with another penalty saw the Masters take a team yellow for discipline. The Sharks kicked to the corner for the lineout. Good secure ball for the Sharks but the Masters defence was strong disrupted the maul.
However, it was as if a drop of blood had been spilt onto the field, the Sharks went into a frenzy with waves and waves of attacks at the Masters try line. Considering the Masters were down to fourteen men, it was if they had found a couple of extra players to help defend their try line which seemed to last for an eternity. This defence eventually saw the Masters push the Sharks back and turn over the ball resulting in a breakaway try under the posts for the final play of the game. This try was converted and the game finished 17-0.
This was truly a magnificent game; very physical, fast flowing, played in the right spirit and a real test for the Masters. A big thank you goes out to Torbay Sharks and Paignton RFC for their hospitality. We very much look forward to the fixture next season