Skip to main content

SSgt Liam Bowman hailed the togetherness of his Army Masters side after they wrapped up the Inter-Services Championship with a 38-16 victory against Navy Mariners on Friday night.

It was a fifth straight title for the Masters dating back to 2017, with the tournament abandoned for the two years of Covid, and after winning his 10th cap at Rosslyn Park, captain Bowman had no doubt why his side have proved so successful.

He explained: “It’s a family – there’s no egos and we’re all mates. We turn up and have a laugh with each other, it’s such a good atmosphere in the squad.

“Everyone gets on with each other and if there’s problems outside of rugby, people always dig in to help each other out – ‘Once a Master, Always a Master’ is the attitude we have.

“We realise we’re all over 35 and not getting any younger so we see ourselves as competitive ambassadors to the game, and we want to show there is life after 35.

“We’re doing that and Vets rugby within the Services is getting better and better every year, and it’s great for the game.”

Converted scores from Maj Matthew Morgan (RAMC) and LSgt Iggy Putty (WG) had helped the Masters into a 14-6 half-time lead, and they pulled away in the second period with SSgt David Best (RAPTC), SSgt Vasa Bai (RAMC) and Sgt Peceli Nacavamuto (RE) also crossing the whitewash.

Reflecting on how the game played out, SSgt Bowman said: “We wanted to play into the wind in the first half knowing they had a big pack and would probably try and bully us, but when we were fresh I felt we’d have enough to compete with that.

“I actually felt we were the better side in the first half and I was confident after the break when we had the wind in our favour that we’d pull away.

“The changes (Head coach, Capt) Mark (Eastley) made and bringing the fresh legs on at the right time helped to blow the opposition away.

“They had a couple of injuries early on which hampered their plans, but that’s part of the game.”

He continued: “It’s brilliant to be champions and the culmination of all the hard work we’ve put in throughout the year – not just when we meet up for training camps, but the time we do in between with the strength and conditioning, we’re constantly working on being better every year.

“The pressure’s always on us, we’ve got a target on our back – it’s seven or eight years since we lost in the Inter-Services – but the Navy and RAF are pushing us every time so we have to improve.

“We had to be ready for a tough Navy side and they brought it – it was a hard, physical game.

“Other than the discipline going for a 10 to 15-minute spell, I thought we put in our best performance.

“In the end I think it was our fitness and gameplan which secured the result.”

While the victory was ultimately convincing, the Army made things harder for themselves than they might have been, adding four yellow cards to their charge sheet following three against the RAF.

And the skipper joked: “I wish we could go through an Inter-Services where we don’t have so many yellow cards, because it would be so much easier if we kept 15 men on the pitch!

“The boys play a hard, physical game and while we keep reminding them about the tackle height, sometimes we overstep the mark.

“But we adjust to it and always seem to raise our game for the 10 minutes where the guy whose let us down is in the bin.”

Following another superb campaign in which his team were only beaten by Army Scotland, SSgt Bowman revealed his targets for what will be a seventh season next time out.

He ended: “The goal is always Inter-Services – regardless of whether you win or lose your warm-up games, it’s about beating the Light Blue and the Dark Blue.

“We’ve got to go again, come back fit and raise the level again, because that’s what they’ll be doing.”

Words © Richard Ashton / New Dogs, Old Tricks

Images – Alligin Photography © Lee Crabb