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Fusilier Aaron James admitted he was lost for words after signing off in style as 1st Battalion The Royals Welsh defeated reigning champions Stormers 25-15 to win the Army Premiership Cup.

The full-back, who was man-of-the-match at the same venue as the Royal Welsh Dragons (2nd XV) beat Lyneham Knights in the Community Knock-Out Cup final before Christmas, is set to leave the Forces and explained: “I’ve been waiting eight years for this and now on the last time I’ll be here with the Royal Welsh, we’ve done it.

“We’ve been working so hard and we knew it was going to be a journey, but credit to the whole team because it was a very hard game.

“I can’t explain how I’m feeling and I’m emotional as hell – I’m lost for words.”

James levelled the scores following an early Gnr Soni Tagituimua penalty, but Stormers moved back in front thanks to a Gnr Antonio Rede try.

Tagituimua added the extras, but James then sent Cpl Loloma over on the left to make it 10-8 at half-time.

The full-back then created another try three minutes into the second period, his brilliant break and off-load eventually leading to Fus Bulubuluwale going over out wide.

Man of the moment James slotted a terrific touchline conversion, and he then fed the grubber kick through which gave Welsh a third try and breathing space, another kick making it 22-10.

And despite Rede giving Stormers late hope with his second, it was fittingly James whose late penalty sealed the deal.

Having been beaten by the same opponents 29-12 in last year’s decider, Aaron said: “I thought it was going to go right to the wire like it always does against them. This is the first time I’ve ever beaten them and it’s a bit of revenge for last year as well – we had it on our minds.

“We weren’t thinking about last year’s game itself, but the painful memories it left, and we used that to win this time.”

While it was not a flawless display, it was certainly one at the heart of the action, and he explained: “I had a couple of funny kicks off the tee, missing a couple of penalties, but I didn’t let my head go and the last two I got were everything because I knew then we were going to win.

“I’m happy with the assists but I didn’t really realise what I was doing during the game because I was so involved in it.

“I got knocked down a couple of times, but I had to keep going because I was never coming off in this game.”

The 10-point hero was also quick to praise man-of-the-match Fus Josh Edwards, whose energy kept Welsh on the front foot.

Aaron said: “He’s only just moved to scrum-half – he’s been a centre until this season – but he plays like that every game and he had another stormer in the final.

“When he plays well it feeds to everyone else and our confidence gets higher.”

It has been an excellent campaign for the Welsh, with the Dragons’ pre-Christmas success and runners-up spot in the Knock-Out Quaich to UAS Hawks on Wednesday (28-12).

And Aaron revealed: “Rugby in the Unit is very strong and to have two teams here on the same Finals Day is a massive achievement – not many have a second team.

“It’s a shame we didn’t have huge support but we’re on leave, however our other team were with us on the sidelines with us for every minute of the game.”

Saving his final thoughts to a chapter closing in his life, Aaron ended: “It’s the best way I could leave, winning the Cup is such a happy ending. I’ll start a new career now, but I’ve loved every single minute of being in the Army.

“It’s the best thing to happen to me both personally and with the rugby – I started in the Under 23s, was in Army squads and the UKAF U23s and it’s been beautiful.

“For anyone who likes sport and wants to join the Army, you should definitely do it.”

Words © Richard Ashton

All images – Alligin Photography © Lee Crabb


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