With the sun shining over the Army Rugby Stadium on Thursday 30 April, the Army Women were physically and mentally well prepared to take on the RAF Women in front of a stadium of supporters and hopefully emulate the success of the Army Masters team, who had earlier been victorious over the RAF Vultures.
The RAF Women started the game strongly, applying several well structured attacking waves causing the Army’s defensive line to soak up a 5 minute period of sustained pressure in their own 22. The Army adapted their game and countered the RAF’s early unrelenting attack. With a lineout on the 5 meter line and the Army under pressure, they maintained composure with Pte Ellie Gattlin RLC stealing the RAF ball, which allowed the half backs to clear their lines.
8 minutes in and the Army finally settled into the game, sending Cpl Caz Roberts REME storming over the try line to give the Army a 5-0 lead. With strong attacking lines from the forwards, followed by slick offloads out of the tackle the RAF were kept on the back foot and their defence struggled to keep up with momentum. The Army forwards continued to set up a strong platform for the backs to utilise the space created, which was fully exploited by Cpl Jade Mullen AGC (SPS) going wide to score the Army’s second try. Roberts successfully kicked the conversion, making the score to 12-0.
18 minutes into the game, with the Army constantly attacking the RAF’s 22, they were finally rewarded with a penalty. Quick thinking from Lt Jade Binskin-Barnes RLC, allowed skipper Cpl Jane Leonard RE to side step the drift defence and score under the posts. Another successful conversion from Roberts moved the Army further ahead 19-0.
The RAF, more determined than ever, attacked the Army’s defensive line knocking the Army back into their 22. With the Army’s line broken after 2 successful phases the RAF were rewarded with a well-deserved penalty and went for the posts: Army 19 – RAF 3.
In the second half the RAF came out fighting and with a strong break from their 6, forced the Army back into their 22. The Army were quick to react and realign their defence causing the RAF to knock on, giving the Army the opportunity to escape the 22 with a 40m break by Tight Head Prop, Cpl Bee Dawson AGC (RMP). With several phases of attack and the Army dominating this period of play 3 more tries were scored by Leonard and 2 from Mullen, giving her a well deserved hat-trick: Army 34 – RAF 3.
With the penalty count rising against the RAF, the referee went to his pocket and produced a yellow card for constant infringements reducing the RAF to 14 players. The Army took advantage of this scoring 2 more tries; Sgt Rosie Haigh REME crossing the line first, breaking from a maul and galloping the 25m to cross the line. This was followed by Sgt Amy Robinson AGC (RMP) touching down after a well worked backs move. Army 44 – RAF 3.
This 5 try blitz did not deter the RAF and after several phases of attacking rugby, the Army’s line was finally broken and the RAF 13 scored an excellent individual try under the posts, which was then converted: Army 44 – RAF 10. This was the wakeup call that the Army needed to break the 50 point barrier and after a powerful forward surge, Leonard broke the RAF’s line and setoff on a powerful 40m charge sidestepping 2 RAF defenders and scoring under the posts for her hat-trick. Roberts converted making the final score Army 51 – RAF 10.
On the final whistle the Army had beaten a well drilled and gallant RAF team in a performance that saw LCpl Chelsey Snead REME receive her first Inter-Service cap. Pte Ellie Gattlin RLC was deservedly awarded player of the match after a majestic performance in the line out, being a dominant presence in the loose and confounding the RAF with a rampant performance in open play. Of special note is the awarding of a 25th Army Cap to Maj Charlie Maxwell AGC (SPS). This achievement cannot be understated and is a testament to Maxwell’s dedication, effort and skill as a player.