Match Winner Cpl Ethan Riley said it was his job to deal with ‘high-pressure moments’ as the fly-half landed a monster 45-metre penalty to secure a 26-25 victory for the Royal Logistics Corp against REME on a windy afternoon at Didcot RFC.
The game never looked like being as close as it ended when RLC took a 10-0 lead inside the first quarter, Pte Waqanidrola blasting over in midfield before magnificent No. 8 Pte Salaresi touched down at the back of a five-metre scrum.
The hosts’ set-piece was utterly dominant early on, but REME valiantly hit back and cut the gap before the break with a sublime team try finished by hooker LCpl Mac Raitokala.
LCpl Solo Radianirova landed the conversion, and his side hit the front early in the second half when Plymouth Albion ace LCpl Pita Ratukadreu – plying his trade on weekends for the National One high-fliers – crossed the whitewash.
Riley landed a penalty to put RLC back in front, and he also added the extras after Sgt Brown was left with a walkover on the right, the hooker swinging round nearer the posts to leave an easier conversion for 20-12.
However, REME – who overturned their scrum problems as the game went on – came roaring back and hit the front with a try converted by Radianirova, the full-back then slotting a penalty into a biting wind.
Riley replied in kind, Radianirova then doing the same before the final blow was dealt by the stand-off who has been called into the Army’s expanded squad for what is to come in 2024.
Commenting on his crucial late intervention and the game as a whole, LCpl Riley said: “There weren’t really any nerves, I’ve been kicking quite well this season – better than past ones – but I felt quite comfortable, and the wind just dropped a bit as I was stepping up and you’ve got to deal with the high-pressure moments.
“(The way they came back) was always going to happen. REME are our main rivals like with the Sappers and Gunners, and there’s never any quarter given between us.”
Having seemed in control of the contest early on, RLC were pushed to the limit and Riley, who also paid tribute to his powerful pack, admitted: “Discipline does get on top of us, and you allow the referee to get on their side, which means it was ultimately a game we had to bring back, but we did that quite well in the end.
“Our boys are notoriously big and it’s nice to play behind that. We rely on our scrum to give us in the backs a platform, and they performed outstandingly.”
Looking ahead to his Army involvement, an excited Ethan revealed: “We’ve got some good games coming up, British Police and Nottingham which will be a massive test. It will be a step up from Corps level, but I want to see how I can progress and see where I fit in – it will be a pleasure to wear the Red Shirt.”
And switching back to what could be to come for an RLC outfit who now sit alongside the Royal Artillery on three wins from four with two games to play in the Corps Championship, he ended: “We’ve got our sights set on winning the Championship and it’s still alive, but we’re not letting ourselves get too far ahead. We’ll take each game as it comes.
“We’ve only just won the games we have and I’m sure the last two will be close as well.”
Words and image © Richard Ashton