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Army Youth steal the show at Twickenham

BA(G) Youth Rugby U11 Youth Services Competition – Army vs Navy 2015

With great trepidation WO1 Walker and 6 volunteers from across BA (G) Youth Rugby clubs embarked on a rugby trip of a lifetime with 24 children all aged under 11, to play against two teams representing the Royal Navy, on the hallowed turf of Twickenham home of England Rugby Union.

The trip started early on Thursday morning with Brigadier Bell (BFG Comd) presenting each child with their match shirts and comparisons made with his reverse Mohawk hairstyle compared with Meshach Dallas’ finely trimmed Mohawk. Following an inspirational speech from the Brigadier it was on to the coach for the lengthy drive to Aldershot and the squad’s accommodation for the duration. The kids were all sooooo excited, until SSgt Adrian Cubbin pulled out 2 Maths SATS papers – wooppee (note there were no tears, until the coaches had to mark 24 SATS papers). No plan survives first contact… we’ve heard it before, and our first contact was the Customs Officers at the EuroTunnel border crossing, when WO1 Walker’s heart stopped as 2 of our Fijian star’s were halted from exiting. With some ‘banter’ (explanation) and ‘puppy dog eyes’ from the kids, it was soon realised that the kids were legitimately exiting (to re-enter) and the paperwork was in fact accurate and onward travel was permitted – phew!!!

Nathaniel (Ridgback) vs Jake (Mastiff)
Quick offload
Talakai Try Time

Once the squad had taken over the accommodation at St Omer Barracks (our kind regards to the Station Commander and the RQMS) we all ventured out for Supper into town. By sheer coincidence the squad strolled past Nando’s to identify the Senior Squad and the one and only ‘Roko’ dining; through a close link with ‘Freddie’, Roko came out to the children and spent 15 minutes talking and posing for photos with them all; the kids were enthralled and well and truly glowing for the rest of the evening – each one had just shaken hands with the Army, Bath and ENGLAND star! Dinner at Frankie and Bennies was scoffed and 24 exhausted children trudged back to St Omer Barracks.

Friday was a little more relaxed as the kids enjoyed a 2 hour morning training session in their respective teams; Ridgbacks and Mastiffs, under the diligent supervision of their coaches. This was completed whilst the mundane administrational tasks (running about collecting kit / tickets / refreshments etc) were completed. All leading to the presentation of the full Rugby ‘stash’ being gifted to each child prior to lunch and movement to the World Rugby Museum and photo opportunity outside Twickenham. With a full afternoon of activities about the museum and Twickenham it was time to return to Aldershot HOWEVER, some kind lady requested the kids remain in place whilst she gets them ‘some’ chocolates from the local store and abducted Alex and Fraser to assist her… With growing frustration as time ticked by, and about 30 minutes later, one huge pallet truck and a car FULL of Nick Easter ‘easter eggs’ came rolling around the corner – WOW… With the logistical nightmare crossing the minds of the coaches the kids seeing chocolate ALL volunteered to each carry 3 boxes (36 eggs each) to the bus… Mums / Dads, sorry! We didn’t let anyone of them eat any. But we did stop at the Asian All-You-Can-Eat Buffet in Aldershot for Supper!!!

Matthew in support play
John (Ridgback) overstretching the RN defense
Meshach Dallas - catch me if you can

The big day rolled in and following an interview with BFBS (with some banter against the opposition RN team that were present) and another opportune photo shoot with ‘Roko’ (he’s such a nice man!) the kids encountered the first of their matches… RIDGBACKS vs MASTIFFS!!! With some excellent footwork and amazing display of character the Mastiffs started the game with some fast play and were clearly leading the game from the outset; unfortunately the speed of some of the Ridgbacks turned the game, leading to an eventual heart thumping win for the Ridgbacks. Well done to both teams; all the officials mentioned how good the handling skills were and how fast the game play was. This result now led to the Ridgbacks playing the United Services (Winner Final) and the Mastiffs playing Devonport Services (Losers Final).

Kai (Ridgback) attacking a determined RN defence
Mastiffs vs RN
BA(G) play

At the half time interval of the Senior match with 81,116 spectators having entered the stadium; the kids nervously approached their respective kick-off. Lined up and standing shoulder to shoulder with the RN teams, the Army teams appeared to be at a disadvantage as the RN teams towered most of the Army U11’s (less Waisake who was as tall as most adults), had we been playing a physical game of contact we would have had some serious concerns; but this was TAG Rugby, where speed, evasion and invasion wins the game… The Army kids are nimble, sprightly, coordinated players, hard to tackle (you had to bend far too low to TAG them) and thirsty for revenge following last years 2-0 defeat to the RN. Deep inside the kids bellies was a fire burning, desperate to explode onto the Arena of Twickenham!!! ‘Senior match – HALF TIME’; ‘Lets go’ roared the officials and there we were – stood on the pitch of Twickenham ready to battle it out in front of a capacity crowd. Both teams played exquisitely displaying some magnificent touches of Rugby and both games were fast paced; the officials perspiring rapidly. Unfortunately for the ‘Losers Final’ the Mastiffs were up against the mill against Devonport as the RN team seemed to have the rub and displayed quality rugby to get the better of the Army. With a hard fought RN win (think the ref was RN) the ‘Losers Final’ went 5-3 to the RN. However, it was a different story in the Winners Final; with the Ridgbacks losing first blood and the RN storming to an early lead the Army were shaken… Once the nerves settled and with a determined win ethos breathing in the Ridgbacks each player pulled their socks up and exhibited some of the ‘best’ U11 age grade Rugby most have seen at Twickenham in years. As the result turned into our favour and with a couple of ‘Super-Subs’ on the sideline the Ridgbacks had confidence that eventually our speed demons would ‘play the game’ and open the RN defence ensuring gaps were affluent for supporting Ridgback players to run in tries with ease… Support, Support, Support won the game! A fantastic display from the Reds with the result 5 – 3 Army!!! Revenge sought and found; Youth Services U11 Competition 2015 Winners – BA (G) Ridgbacks… Well done boys!

BA(G) Ridgback - Winners
BA(G) Squad presentation evening
BA(G) Youth with Roko at Twickenham

That evening the whole squad celebrated at Garrett’s restaurant with some good food / drink and though dessert wasn’t provided there was sufficient Birthday Cake to go about the whole Squad and coaches, as together we all celebrated Gary’s Birthday – 21 Again…. With everyone suitably fed and watered the presentation awards commenced with all children receiving a very nice trophy and the coaches receiving a memento for their endeavours; For supporting the weekend and ensuring all the kids had a fantastic experience appreciation goes to WO1 Jay Wheeler, SSgt Adrian Cubbin, SSgt Fraser Stones, Cpl William Frederick, Mr Alex Dady and Mrs Deborah Walker. Also, thanks to the RN teams for 2 very challenging games, BA (G) Sports Board, AWS, ARU, Motif8, Roko, Ady Cherrington and the RFU.

Report by Gary Walker.

You can view the complete gallery below (click for larger images).

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