Fly-half, WO2 Chris Harris (R Welsh), was delighted to have played a leading part as the Army Masters defeated Navy Mariners 38-16 to win the Inter-Services Championship.
The stand-off was forced into action earlier than expected after starting No. 10 Maj Rob Mitchell (RLC) was forced off through injury with his side leading 7-6 thanks to a converted try from Maj Matthew Morgan (RAMC).
But Harris went onto play a pivotal role as the Red Shirts pulled away, adding the extras to a score from LSgt Iggy Putty (WG) with the final play of the first half before repeating the trick following tries from SSgt David Best (RAPTC), SSgt Vasa Bai (RAMC) and Sgt Peceli Nacavamuto (RE).
Having also landed a penalty early in the second period, WO2 Harris ended with 11 points and he admitted: “The coaches wanted to bring me on at half-time to add dynamism, pace and intensity because I like to play a free and open game.
“But Rob got a knock on his leg which gave me an opportunity to come on earlier and show my skills, and lucky enough I had a good day.
“Our pack has been dominant this year, it’s very rare we lose any scrums, and I’ve played with Iggy for about 15 years so we bounce off each other.
“We’ve played league and union together so when we’re on the pitch we know exactly what we want to do and how we want to play.”
A physical contest saw the Army receive four yellow cards, while their opponents had one along with a red card midway through the third quarter, leading WO2 Harris to explain: “It was two teams putting it on the line for the Inter-Services Championship. The Navy had a good win against the RAF and so did we, so we knew what was coming.
“There were some hard hits which was to be expected, but it’s just the ferocity of the game and at the end everyone comes together which is what it’s all about.”
A stellar campaign has seen the Masters beaten just once – by Army Scotland – but the fly-half felt the defeat could have been a blessing in disguise.
He continued: “The average age in our team is 42, when we played Army Scotland the average age was 24.
“They took it to us and were strong and hard, but it was still a close game. You have to dust yourself off from losses, fix the wrongs, make them right and keep going forwards.
“It’s been a long, hard season, but a good one – we’ve got stronger as a unit throughout the year.
“We’ve put a lot of bonding into it, changed the way we’ve played, and I think it showed with a win against a strong Navy team.”
Before looking ahead to what the future holds, WO2 Harris paid tribute to the coaching staff who played a key role in another fine campaign.
He ended: (Head coach Capt) Mark (Eastley) came in at the beginning of the season and changed every dynamic, he grinded us, put a new structure in and the backroom staff have been great.
“It doesn’t matter where or when, they’ve always been there to give us help.
“It’s never just the 15 on the park or the 23 on the sheet, it’s everyone putting the work in and luckily enough we got the win.
“Now we’ll have a couple of months off although a couple of us go into rugby league, but then we’ll come back, reassess where we’re at and hopefully have some more new fellas come in.”
Words © Richard Ashton / New Dogs, Old Tricks
Images – Alligin Photography © Lee Crabb