As the last vestiges of daylight disappeared ahead of the second match in the day’s double-header, the heavens opened to welcome the Army Senior Men for their first Development XV game of the season.
With a new coaching team and plenty of new and returning players, the desire to impress was clear from the outset, as the red shirts crossed for the first try of the evening with just three minutes on the clock.
There was power in the scrum and sharpness in attack, which both pushed the Police back well into their own 22. And while Capt Giles Bromley-Martin (IG) was pulled down just short there was no stopping the support, LCpl Jermi Vereti (REME), who had been involved in the play with an impressive carry a couple of phases earlier, was on hand to dive over untouched.
Having been on the receiving end of that explosive start, and while they were significantly overpowered in the scrum, it was to the Police’s credit that they settled into the contest. Both sides had their chances, but found their opposing defences tough nuts to crack on the respective lines, and the 5-0 scoreline remained the same into the second quarter.
It was not just attitude which remained positive, but the style of play, too, and the quality of handling from both teams was admirably high. This was showcased with a blindside move from a scrum won against the head, where LCpl Vereti broke from the base, Capt Sandy Wheatley (RA) kept the tempo high and Spr Cam McDonald (RE) was sent away down the right touchline, the try only stopped by a desperate tackle.
However the Police were unable to stop the red shirt forwards, whose power and directness brought the second try of the night, Sgt Dan Lewis (RAMC) the beneficiary. Lt Matt Smart (Yorks) added the conversion to make the score 12-0 as the half-hour approached.
Having posed plenty of problems with ball in hand, the Army needed some answers in defence as the interval approached, as the Police kicked a pair of penalties into dangerous positions deep in the home 22.
But the red shirts stood strong with a counter-drive that forced a turnover on their own line. LCpl Vereti spotted space and turned on the afterburners, a break overshadowed by how LCpl Junior Vasuitoga (RLC) held onto the number eight’s offload at full pace.
With Capt Bromley-Martin pushing the Police back with a kick and Spr McDonald returning the clearance with another searing, sidestepping run, the Army were back on the offensive. Capt George Fossey (MERCIAN) may have fumbled the ball in a tackle, but there was no let-up from the hosts, who kept up the pressure to create space for Capt Wheatley to reach over close to the ground.
The Army scrum was a powerful tool.
Leading 19-0 at the break, the Army came out of the blocks at the start of the second half, too.
It was certainly a try that will be difficult to replicate, as Police scrum-half Dai Francis did superbly to bat a Lt Smart touchfinder infield, only to see LBdr Jack Fitzgerald (RA) follow the kick up to pounce on the loose ball for the score.
LBdr Fitzgerald’s counterpart on the other wing, LCpl Vasuitoga, was somewhat more direct in his running, but no less effective, showing pace and power to take the red shirts to the visitors’ 22. They came away with points again, Spr McDonald’s first half attacking prowess rewarded with a darting five-pointer close to the sticks.
Now well on top, the Army had two tries ruled out with marginal decisions. But there was no stopping the pack as the hour mark approached, a rolling maul bringing a try for Sgt Joe Brown (RLC) and a 36-0 lead.
As so often happens, the flow of the contest broke up somewhat as the regular replacements bedded into the action. But when things settled down it was one of them, Tpr Junior Vunivosa (QDG), who got the scoreboard ticking over by another five points, crashing onto a short ball to scythe his way to the whitewash.
The Police earned themselves a consolation try three minutes from time from close range, centre Scott Shankie coming up with the ball.
But it was far too late to change the contest’s outcome, the Army running out 43-7 victors.
LCpl Vasutoga and Spr McDonald impressed with their running lines.
Words © New Dogs, Old Tricks. All images – Alligin Photography © Lee Crabb