On a damp very cold Wednesday evening at Cardiff Arms Park, a new look Army Masters team with several changes from last season’s team took to the pitch to face a HM Prison side. The traditional first fixture of the New Year always has a bit of spice and this was no different, the HMP with a sprinkling of ex-servicemen in their ranks always have a few big players who run hard at your defence and this year was going to be no different.
To the credit of the teams both tried to play a quick open running game which was well reward after 4 minutes as the HMP took the first try resulting in an early lead 7-0. The restart was good by the Masters, resulting in good physical play from both sides when the Masters were rewarded with a penalty. WO2 Gareth Slade-Jones kicked to the corner; this was an ideal opportunity for the Masters to run their lineout close to the HMP line, after a great line out the HMP were quick to react and with good defence turned over the ball and cleared their lines. The Masters reset the line which they secured resulting in the Skipper WO2 Limbrick making a great break before offloading to Maj Burton who was tackled illegally 5m just short of the line. The Masters decided to opt for the lineout; this resulted in quick ball off the top to let the backs run at the Prison Service. HMP defence was up quick and flat but WO2 Slade-Jones was quick to see the space behind and kicked through which saw Cpl Vukinavanua score, this was converted by WO2 Sutherland to level the score (7-7).
HMP hit back with a good restart forcing the Masters to clear their lines and with some strong forward work by HMP saw them score quickly converting to make the score (14-7 HMP).
It was clear that both sides meant business and again WO2 Slade-Jones awareness saw a great opportunity with a cross field kick to Sgt Williams on the wing who ran 50m down the pitch before the HMP scrambled defence caught him, however this resulted in the ball being re-gathered by WO2 Namata who found a gap and scored in the corner. This was not converted by the Masters (14-12 HMP).
The HMP restart again was good with the Masters not dealing with the kick off very well and this resulted in a scrum to HMP. A good strong scrum by HMP saw their backs being released and their 12 making a great run to create space and release one of his colleagues who scored in the corner. This wasn’t converted (19-14 HMP).
A good restart by the Masters however at the breakdown the referee saw some foul play and sent WO2 Slade-Jones to the bin for 10 mins just before half time. Against the run of play Cpl Vukinavanua with his strong presence made a great run to score in the corner for the Masters. Again this wasn’t converted and HMP went in at half time just in front (19-17 HMP).
The Coaches rang the changes at half time with fresh legs to test HMP fitness levels. The Masters were now testing the boundaries of HMP again resulting in HMP giving away another penalty. The Masters kicked for touch but came up just short, luckily for them HMP knocked on resulting in a scrum to the Masters. A well contested scrum but again HMP were offside resulting in another penalty to the Army. WO2 Slade-Jones took a quick tap and made a great run 50m down the park before being tackled 5m short of the line and knocked on, HMP scrum. A good scrum by HMP but the Masters defence was up quick putting piling on the pressure resulting in a turn over releasing the winger to make a break supported by Maj Melia who then released Cpl Kappa to go over the line for the Masters; this was converted by WO2 Sutherland. For the first time in the game the Masters had the upper hand (19-24 Masters).
At this point in the game the Masters fitness started to show is dominance causing HMP to use their scrambled defence a lot more. Capt Melia the hooker had been a menace for most of the game with his little snipping runs putting the Army on the front foot but his outstanding break in the second half saw the Masters score again in the corner again not converted (19-29 Masters).
HMP were not finished yet and answered back with another score after some great work by HMP Backs and forwards clearly HMP were not giving up with the score (24-29 Masters). The Masters with WO2 Slade Jones now at nine again saw his sharp thinking after HMP conceded another penalty he again took the quick tap and scored the final score of the match. This was not converted to make the final score 24-34 to the Masters.
A great game played by both teams but a fantastic result for the Masters. The Masters look forward to their next game against Torbay Sharks at home on the 18 Feb 17.