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Kew Occasional vs. Army Masters

Saturday 2 Feb 2013

Richmond Athletic Ground

Lady Luck has been on our side this year and unlike some other teams our fixture list has not been disrupted by bad weather. Although training the day before the Kew game on a cold and very wet muddy Queens Avenue training pitch certainly tested the commitment of both the players and coaching staff alike.

Happy to report that the full contact training regime did not cause the squad any serious injuries or long term damage and ensured that the player’s mindset was focused for the challenge of a strong Kew Occasional side awaiting us in Richmond on the Saturday afternoon.

The Kew side is made up of various players who have played at a high level mostly at university with a sprinkling of players who have graced the annual varsity match at Twickenham. They tend to be slightly younger then our squad although that average age is raised when Army Masters Director of Rugby Simon Orr and follower front row forward Ewen Cameron turn out for them regularly like they did on this Saturday.

This meant the forward battle was going to be an area which we knew was going to be high contested as they were up against fellow Masters Props Mark Eastley and Seiriol Hughes. The weather on the Saturday was bright if a bit chilly but perfect for rugby.

From the kick off the Masters get straight into their stride with all the forwards looking to carry the ball and only scramble defence by Kew keeping the Masters at bay, the pressure starts to tell and the Masters have a couple of early penalty kicks at goal which fall just short, but the Masters continue with the pressure and Fly half Glyn Jones finds his range and puts the Masters into a lead 0-3.

The Masters keep the tempo up, however a turnover allows Kew the opportunity to run with the ball from deep within their own half and it’s their fast dangerous backs who make lots of ground and although the Masters cover well to stop the initial attack the slick passing and movement of the Kew backs allows them the first try of the game 5-3.

The pattern of the game is now set with Kew looking to live of the scraps of possession they can get in the forward battle and attack from deep, with the Masters just trying to go though the phases and maintain possession of the ball.

Pressure from Kew leads to another turnover and quick as a flash the ball is moved out wide and the Masters are down 10-3 to another Kew try.

The Masters go looking for a first try and spend a lot of time camped close to the Kew line and go close a couple of times to a score but are denied each time and end the half with nothing to show for their endeavour. The coaching staff ring the changes at half-time with Calvin Venn on for Glynn Jones at Fly half, Garry Windle on for Ben Birkeck at Hooker and Jim Newton on for Bongo Davies at scrum half.

The Coaching staff are disappointed at the side for not turning the pressure and possession into points on the score board and the team respond with a try in the first minute of the restart with Epi Qolikibua going over and Venn adding the extra’s to level the scores 10-10.

Kew who have not lost a game since their first fixture of the season now know they are in a battle.

With both sides looking to attack the quality of rugby skills on display is very high, but again it’s the Kew back line that conjure up a smart move out wide to score a try and make it 15-10. Masters now as we move into the last period of the game are playing some excellent Rugby and it’s a testament to the fitness levels of the players against a younger side that are maintaining their work rate both in attack and in defence, both Camie Hastie and Masters skipper Neil Griffiths are awesome in both areas.

The titanic struggle in the front row never dims with both sets of props working hard to try and gain the upper hand, they will still be arguing until the end of the season who did win that battle.

The Masters with clock running down dig deep in a all out effort to go looking for that crucial score, with Kew now not willing to risk attacking from deep but just clearing their line when they can.

Despite a spirited effort by the Masters they are unable to find that crucial score before the final whistle blows. Defeats are hard to take but there a bag full of positives the Masters Players and Coaching staff can take from this performance, and it was a game of Rugby that both sets of touchline supporters enjoyed as a thrilling no holes barred encounter.

Army Masters Head coach SSgt Tiny Baker commented after the game:

“The ‘Occasionals’ have always been a hard youthful opposition and each year it is never easy to anticipate their particular areas of strength. This year with 75% of the possession and territory we allowed them only to live off of our scraps and albeit minor lapses of concentration. Our structure and support play, at times, was difficult for them to contain and to be camped within their 5m line so often without scoring taught us that our execution of the final phase is critical. A great game for both sides and another step, for us, towards our defence of the Inter Service title.”

Report by WO2 Jim Evans

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