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Player of the match Capt Sally Bellhouse (RAVC) believes the heavy defeat to England Under 20s ultimately proved a key reason for Army Women winning the Inter-Services Championship.

The Red Shirts ran out 36-19 victors in a cracking contest against the Royal Air Force at Kingsholm last Saturday, their opponents having the better of territory and possession for much of the game before the champions overhauled a 19-5 deficit.

The Army had taken a fourth-minute lead when SSgt Sarah Batley (AGC (RMP)) barged over, but found themselves behind when AS1 Daisy Fahey added to a try from England international Flt Lt Amy Cockayne.

A Cpl Kathryn Robinson score extended the RAF’s advantage to 12-5, and the Air Force moved further in front as Welsh wizard Flt Lt Carys Williams-Morris raced in from halfway for a score added to by Fahey.

Two tries from Lt Hannah Gilmour (RE) and a conversion from Sgt Lou Dodd (QARNC) cut the gap to 19-17 at the break, and despite coming under serious pressure early in the second period, further scores from Bellhouse, skipper SSgt Jade Mullen (AGC (SPS)) and Sgt Heidi Silcox (RAMC) ensured the silverware returns to Aldershot.

Reflecting on a wonderful comeback win, Bellhouse said: “It epitomised what wearing the Red Shirt is about because it’s always a tough game.

“We came out, started well, but then made a couple of mistakes and the RAF are improving year on year – they brought their internationals out against us, which is big for them, but also a compliment to us.

“We went behind the sticks when we were behind and used the composure we developed from the England Under 20s game (a 99-5 loss), came back fighting and every single girl dug into their reserves – there’ll be a lot of broken bodies, but it’s what you have to do.

“The RAF always bring it to us, and we seem to have a 10-minute lull whether it’s at the start or middle of the first half, so it was an intentional thing to have the England game and know how we can be on the back foot and still come back.”

She continued: “Huddy (Head coach WO2 Sarah Mitchelson (RLC)) and Jade put a lot of emphasis on making sure we all do our own job in our area of the park, and everyone got into that clinical mindset – just keep going forward, keep hitting them hard and doing the simple stuff and tries will follow.”

Remarkably it was a second player-of-the-match award in two years for Bellhouse in the RAF fixture, and she admitted: “It’s an honour, especially in such a devoted team who have put so much in throughout the season.

“To be named (as PotM) is amazing, but I can’t do the runs and turnovers I do without the team around me – you can’t go off a dodgy scrum, so credit to them.”

Words © Richard Ashton

All images – Alligin Photography © Army Rugby Union

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