The Army Masters retained the Inter Service Championship with a hard-fought but well-deserved 38-16 victory against the Royal Navy Mariners on Friday evening.
Both sides suffered an early setback at Rosslyn Park’s The Rock ground, with Navy second row PO John Lamsin and Masters’ open-side CoH Tanuku Qio (HCMR) forced off through injury in the opening five minutes.
It was the Army who had the first chance to open the scoring, a breakdown penalty 35 metres out giving Maj Robert Mitchell (RLC) a sight of goal, only for the fly-half to put his attempt wide.
However, his side hit the front shortly afterwards as a beautiful line from man-of-the-match Sgt Paul Taura (RA) took the Masters into their opponents’ half, and another delightful angle from Maj Matthew Morgan (RAMC) saw the second row race in from the 22.
Maj Mitchell landed the extras for 7-0, but the Navy hit back with a Rich Cadywould penalty.
The Dark Blues collected the first yellow card of the contest as Lloyd John was sin-binned for a high tackle, only for Maj Mitchell to give his rivals another reprieve from the tee.
The Navy immediately went down the other end, and after Sgt Kemeredi Murray (RE) was yellow carded for an infringement in the red zone, Cadywould doubled his tally to reduce the gap to a solitary point.
However, he struck the right post with an effort to give his side the lead, and while the Masters endured another injury with Maj Mitchell forced off, they struck an important blow with the final play of the half, LSgt Iggy Putty (WG) sniping over from a metre out before WO2 Chris Harris (R Welsh) made it 14-6 at the break.
An easy penalty for the replacement extended the lead early in the second period, but the Army then had vice-captain SSgt Vasa Bai (RAMC) sin-binned for a late shot.
Cadywould knocked over the resultant kick, but Navy flanker Oliver James then saw red for an off-the-ball incident in which the referee deemed a punch to have been thrown.
And the Masters made their numerical advantage pay with 25 minutes to go as prop SSgt David Best snuck over from close range, WO2 Harris on target for 24-9.
Two more yellow cards for the Army helped keep their opponents interested – Cpl Angus Smith (RLC) and Maj Graham Corin (RAMC) given 10 minutes on the sidelines – before WO2 Harris had a chance to finish the game off only to fumble the ball with the line at his mercy.
However, the returning SSgt Bai landed the fatal blow, a sweeping move ending with the centre racing 30 metres down the left-hand touchline for a score superbly converted by WO2 Harris.
The Navy continued to battle though, and responded swiftly as Alan Bodel went over out wide from near the line, Cadywould cutting the deficit to 31-16.
It was merely a consolation, however, as Army replacement Sgt Peceli Nacavamuto (RE) threw a couple of outrageous dummies before darting over in front of the clubhouse, WO2 Harris with the extras for the final score of an entertaining evening.
Words © Richard Ashton
All images – Alligin Photography © Lee Crabb