Army U23 – 34 V Royal Navy U23 – 12
The Army overcame a tough and determined Royal Navy XV at Aldershot in their first match of the 2014 U23 Inter Services Championship.
The victory by 34 pts—12 underlined a comfortable mathematical margin but, in reality the matelots might have made it closer. During the early salvoes they retained the ball for worrying periods, tackled hard and fought to the last round. That they had already beaten the RAF in a high scoring match showed they had firepower.
The Army started with strength and rhythm. James Dixon (RE) settled some of the nerves with a penalty on 20 minutes and 10 minutes later full back Marcus Mercer (RE) finished off a thunderous try.
The front row of Hamilton (REME), Hunter (RA) and Jenkinson (RLC) were solid and hard-working; their strength provided a calming influence. Possession came when it was needed and the Sapper half back pairing of Watkins and Dixon were lively and bossy.
Senior Army cap Dixon has grown with each game in a red shirt. His breaks were well disguised and he lacked nothing in finishing power. He took a few risks. Not all were successful but he committed the Navy close defence and took the stick when necessary. His try at the close was a peach.
Dixon’s kicking from the hand and the teehave become a feature of the Army game and he accounted for ten points with the boot.
Steady precision at the hinge gave centre George Main (RA) a yard of space and he was on fire. Main is elusive and has all-round vision. He drew the defence plus any stragglers before off-loading to wings Petueli (RE) or Turganivalu (RA) who were joyful runners. Main deserves a shot at the Senior XV.
No8 Ryan Lewis (Rifles) had an outstanding match and made a large impression. He was strong in contact and quick, giving the Army a formidable presence at point or in support. His willingness to ‘catch and carry, was rewarded with an exceptional try from over the ‘22’. Alongside Lewis, flankers Shaun Hopper (R Signals) and Scott (RA) proved willing to carry the fight into the thick of the Navy defence.
Job half done. The Army now face a revitalized RAF side at Halton. The Airmen lost narrowly to the Navy at Portsmouth and will be itching to prove themselves on home turf. That means the Army must meet another severe test before they can be crowned the 2014 Inter Services Champions .