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Head Coach, Capt Mark Eastley (RE) was full of praise for the defensive effort which underpinned the Army Masters’ come-from-behind win over the English Fire Service in Aldershot on Wednesday evening.

The Masters had won their two games before Christmas and came out of the blocks quickly against the Fire Service, Cpl Vukinavanua (AAC) hitting a short line off centre partner Sgt Nacamavuto (RE) to score inside the opening two minutes.

But the Fire Service replied in kind less than two minutes later, and this set the tone for an entertaining 80 minutes in which the energy, skill and handling belied the challenging conditions and heavy pitch.

Maj Mitchell (RLC) and Sgt Murray (RE) both scored in the first half, and while WO2 Harris opened the second half with a penalty the Fire Service fought back, scoring 10 unanswered points to hit the front with 10 minutes to go.

Nevertheless the Army maintained their composure, Sgt Nacamavuto having his third assist of the evening by setting up Sgt Qaranivalu (Yorks) for what turned out to be the winning try.

But it was the effort which followed which stood out just as much for Capt Eastley, as the Masters withstood some final pressure, and he said that the game was exactly the kind of test he had been wanting.

“The Fire Service was a great side, a young side, and they were physical, fast, aggressive,” he said. “They stress-tested our defence, which was great, and we’ve identified some work-ons to improve.

“But for our guys there was great resilience across the team to dig out, especially when we were under the cosh in the final 20 minutes. They showed great heart.

“The Fire Service were really putting us under some intense pressure. We were having to work hard and get into our shape to stop them.”

That effort on the back foot meant that when the Army did get their opportunity to strike it was for a winning try, and Capt Eastley says that the attacking shape which the team maintained was very pleasing.

“We’re very blessed,” he added. “Naca [Sgt Nacamavuto] has had many games in the senior team and still showing his skills. He’s got the hands and silky skills and when he’s in a central position with runners off him we will make holes and score opportunistic tries, as we did this evening.”

The Masters’ next run-out will be a red shirt derby against Army Scotland in February, and Capt Eastley is already looking forward to taking on the challenge.

“I think that’s going to be another fast and young team from Army Scotland, and it’ll be another stress test which will put us under pressure, and will be great,” he said.

Words © New Dogs, Old Tricks

Header and Featured Image – Alligin Photography © Cat Goryn