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The red shirts may have come out on the wrong side of a narrow result against the Light Blues at Grange Road, but there was plenty to take away from the contest against Cambridge University from the perspective of both players and coaches.

For long spells the Army were either ahead or in striking distance of the hosts, scoring a pair of opportunist tries in the first half and a long-range stunner soon after the break. However a pair of late tries put Cambridge in front, with a penalty shortly before injury time taking the Light Blues two scores in front.

Capt Giles Bromley-Martin (IG) was the player who finished off the third try, on hand to crash over after Pte Ratuvaleta (RLC) had collected his own chip and LBdr Visei (RA) and Capt Stu Cross (RMAS/Yorks) had taken play deep into the Cambridge 22.

He acknowledged the mixed emotions from being a try scorer in a losing effort, but also said that the 80 minutes represented an important step forward for the playing group.

“It was a tough fixture against a good Cambridge side which was well drilled, but you can’t fault our lads for putting in a shift,” he said. “We’re a new group together and I’m sure we’ll get better with each game as a group.

“Their set play was well drilled, they could get through the phases well. They took us wide, they took us narrow, and challenged our defence. What we’re proud of is how we reacted to that. Yes, we didn’t get a win, but we got off the line, made our tackles, and it was a good performance despite the loss.

“We play the Varsity sides every year and it’s always a challenge. They’re always competitive. Our challenge is down the road in the Inter-Services, and we’re on an upward trajectory towards that finish line. We just need that time.”

Capt Bromley-Martin has had a number of runouts in a red shirt over the last couple of months, having last represented the Army against Coventry in the final match before the pandemic struck. And he says that it is good to be seeing action once again.

Capt Bromley-Martin is enjoying being back in a red shirt.

Images – Alligin Photography © Lee Crabb

“It’s nice to be back in,” the centre added. “It didn’t work out for me last year with deployments, and it’s great to be back in the set-up. There’s a new coaching set-up, some old faces, some new faces and a great bunch of lads.”

For Head Coach, Lt Col Tim Osman, the match resulted in plenty of notes areas to work on ahead of next week’s trip to Oxford University. This applied as much to game management from the sidelines as it did for how the players’ performances on the field.

“It was a great game of rugby,” he said. “Both teams wanted to play. But there are some key issues for us to work on after this first game of a block of three up until the France game. There was plenty to take away, which was a positive, we learned a lot about where we’re at and it’s a good marker in the sand.

“Clearly penalties and discipline killed us. We weren’t on the right side of the referee in the tackle area and we didn’t adapt; we’ve got to learn from that. We didn’t contest some lineouts where we could have, which made it easier for them to get clean ball and go. And in offence we got a little bit flat when we wanted to play a bit, which doesn’t work.

“They’re a good team and it’s good to test and see where you are. You learn a lot from games where you lose or don’t get things right. They got stronger as the game went on and I’ve got to take a bit of responsibility for some of the changes we made. We wanted to give people game time and consciously knew that would probably cause a lack of cohesion, which you wouldn’t normally make in a must-win game.”

However, Lt Col Osman also praised how the team capitalised on its first half opportunities and created a try from nothing at the start of the second.

Head Coach post match on field reflections with the squad.

Image – Alligin Photography © Cat Goryn

“We came out, responded to the half-time chat and scored the try of the season with end-to-end stuff, which is what we want to do,” he added. “The boys are disappointed, as after any loss in an Army shirt, but we are buoyed by some of the things we saw, although there’s plenty to work on.”

The red shirts travel to Oxford University next Wednesday, March 1st, to take on the Dark Blues at Iffley Road, before welcoming the French Army to Aldershot on Wednesday, March 15th.

Tickets for the 2023 Inter-Services Championship are now on sale.

CLICK HERE for information about the Army v RAF at Kingsholm, Gloucester, on Saturday, April 15th.

CLICK HERE for information about Army Navy at Twickenham on Saturday, May 13th.

Words © New Dogs, Old Tricks

Header and Featured Image – Alligin Photography © Cat Goryn