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Army Teaches Students a Lesson

Army 39 pts — Cambridge University 5 pts

THE ARMY REDS welcomed senior players back to training but nevertheless fielded a largely experimental XV to beat Cambridge 39pts-5 at Aldershot on 20 February. The performance fully justified the decision of Army senior coach Axel Rees to “ring the changes on the evidence”.

The first twenty minutes was intense as both sides attacked with a welcome degree of confidence. Certainly the return of lock and skipper Darrell Ball brought direction and flow to the Army game as did the selection of Gerhard Wessels at centre. Ball glued the pack together and on a night when the freezing conditions might have made handling difficult Wessels brought his Sapper centre partner, a reinvigorated Peceli Nacamavuto, into play to make great yards. Both are both capable of spotting the gap and made ample ground down the middle against an experienced Cambridge defence.

A succession of well supported breaks, one gem by James Read, and quick rucking frequently drove the Students on to the back foot but what Cambridge failed to gain from ruck and maul they made up at the lines-out. Once in possession they showed admirable ball retention and, but for vigorous Army defence in the last trenches, would have scored two tries in the first half.

The Army is not short of pace on the wings.

Sam Speight found the right gears to out- sprint the students whilst ‘fresher’ Isaia Bobo and Bul Bulumakau brought different qualities to the attack. Both have raw speed and are elusive runners. Speight has physical presence and is hard to hold out wide. Bobo was prepared to run the angles and bring the back row into play. The pack was solid with John Fisher at tight head making his mark with telling carries. U23 skipper Craig Filleul at hooker may run in the shadow of the Ospreys Mattie Dwyer—but it is getting lighter in the nooks and crannies.
Being ‘also a flanker’ Filleul gives the Army both speed and grunt.

Darrell Ball, in good voice, gave the pack cohesion. Back-rowers Mundy and Jope were lively and Ball was inevitably on hand to provide the momentum lacking against Oxford. Jope was more than a handful in the Students ‘22’ and rammed home the first try. Bulumakau scored the second whilst Cummings kicked accurately for an 18 pts lead at half time.

The second half continued in the same ‘ding-dong’ fashion. Although the Army created a 32pts-nil lead Cambridge continued to attack at every opportunity. The Reds pack was forced to cover, regroup and cover again. Luke Bellinger at lock and ‘Turkish’ Titchard-Jones were prominent in a reshaped front division. One surprising aspect was the Students control at the lines-out. The referee found many reasons to ping the Army, Cambridge kicked for position where their throwing was both varied and pin point.
Without a measure of defensive aerial power the Reds were denied the opportunities to attack a tiring Cambridge in the closing quarter.

Coach Axel Rees was satisfied, but not completely, at the final whistle. “The newcomers are showing their paces, growing in confidence around the senior players and challenging for places” he said. “We will need to step up another gear when we travel to Worcester on 6 March but this was encouraging and Sixways will give the new guys a real taste of what heights they have to reach”.

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