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The Army Under 23s scored three tries to the RAF’s nil as they defeated the visitors 19-9 on a cold night in Aldershot – a success which means the Inter-Services Championship will go to the final week.

Having been left to rue ill-discipline in their opening defeat to the Royal Navy, the hosts fell behind to an early scrum penalty which AS1 Kieran Jenkins slotted with ease from 25 metres out.

A further six penalties arrived in the opening 12 minutes – Army getting pinged repeatedly at the breakdown – but there were no clear chances in a first quarter showing plenty of enthusiasm but also plenty of errors.

The visitors came nearest to scoring when a grubber kick sparked a period of pinball in the Army 22, AS1 Kieran Prescott eventually getting hold of the ball and diving towards the line, only to be bundled into touch.

Army mauled the ball away from their own five-metre line, but had a touch of good fortune as scrum-half Fg Off Jack O’Regan charged down 2Lt Henry Lapslie’s (Scots) attempted clearance, only for the ball to run dead.

It was Lapslie, though, who provided the impetus for his side to take the lead shortly after.

Firstly, the fly-half produced a brilliant counter-attacking break from inside his own 22, a perfect 50-22 then setting up field position for his side.

Rfn Jamie Diamond (Rifles) came close to getting over at inside centre, but after going back for a five-metre penalty, Lt Seb Jones was stopped short before prop Spr Ryan Eastley (RE) – son of Army Masters Head Coach Capt Mark (RE) – grabbed his second try in as many weeks before Lapslie added the extras for 7-3.

Lapslie blotted his copybook by becoming the fist player sin-binned for not releasing, and after another infringement – this time for off-side – Jenkins knocked over the kick to cut the gap to one point.

However, the same player missed a straight-forward chance to give his side a half-time lead, and it was Army who made a dream start to the second period.

Putting pressure on from the outset, they forced O’Regan to be carded for a cynical foul short of the line, and from the next play, No. 8 LBdr Tokaduadua (RA) blasted over from close range for Lapslie to make it 14-6.

The visitors stayed in the contest as another off-side penalty allowed Jenkins to trim the gap, but Army made what ultimately be the decisive move on 56 minutes – second row Pte Harris Fishwick smashing over from a couple of metres out after his captain, Rgr George Coen (R Irish) had been stopped just before.

Lapslie struck the post with what should have been a straightforward conversion, but Jenkins then did the same with a penalty from 35 metres out which saw the game head into the final 10 minutes at 19-9.

It was far from plain sailing for the hosts, though, the RAF camping in their opponents’ 22 and leading to both Diamond and Pte Yabs Yabaki (R Yorks) being yellow carded.

Yet despite the RAF coming close on a couple of occasions, some resolute defence ensured the hosts held on for a deserved victory.

The win means the Navy will be crowned champions if they win or draw with the RAF at Hazlewood next Wednesday, but the Army will be winners if the RAF win by 14 points or less.

If the Air Force succeed by more than 15, it would nudge their points difference ahead of the Army’s (currently +5) and mean they are the 2023 IS kings.

Words © Richard Ashton

All images – Alligin Photography © Army Rugby Union


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