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The Army Masters secured the runners-up berth in the Inter-Services Championship with a hard-fought 24-0 success against the Royal Air Force Vultures.

On a glorious Friday evening at Kingsholm, a fairly tepid opening was only really noteworthy for a powerful carry from impressive Air Force No. 8 Flt Lt Matt Tibbatts, albeit his side went onto enjoy some pressure midway through the first quarter.

However, the Army were able to repel a five-metre maul before heading downfield and earning a 35-metre penalty for dissent, WO2 Chris Harris (R Welsh) drifting wide right with his shot at goal.

The Red Shirts kept the pressure on, though, forcing a couple of rumbling set-pieces towards the whitewash, only for their opener to come after the RAF had cleared their lines.

A huge Cpl Joe Nalewabau (R Sigs) carry from halfway took his side pouring into the 22, and following some good handling among forwards and backs alike, second row Sgt Pauliasi Taura (RA) was just about to get the ball down.

Harris was again off target, but his side moved further ahead shortly after as line-out ball off the top led to centre SSgt Nicky Lloyd (R Sigs) crashing over from five metres out.

A first successful kick made it 12-0 after 34 minutes, and as the Air Force’s discipline continued to elude them, another kick to the corner led to Maj Sam Richardson (AGC (SPS)) burrowing over from close range for a converted score just before the interval.

There was still time for the visitors to drop the restart, giving the Air Force an opportunity to get within five metres before a breakdown penalty kept them pointless at the break.

The penalty count swung on its head early in the second period, Army repeatedly pinged as their opponents took control of possession and territory, and the hosts came incredibly close as Sqn Ldr Dan Greener was halted a metre short by an incredible WO2 Ben Fulton (RA) cover tackle.

However, from the ensuing breakdown Sgt Kameli Vuadreu (RLC) was sin-binned, and the RAF again came close as a cross-field kick just ran into touch with Greener and Sgt James Challenger in plenty of space.

Army defended the rest of the sin-bin well, and then broke out from their own 22 as Cpl Imi Vukinavanua raced down the left, the ball later turned over on the goal-line as it stayed 19-0.

A water break saw momentum switch back to the RAF early in the third quarter, and they again came near before the ball was ripped from Tibbatts’ grasp in a try-line tackle.

The Army, however, then put the game to bed with six minutes remaining, man-of-the-match Fulton helping get a monstrous maul over for his side’s fourth try.

A fabulous spell of continuity play took the away side 60 metres shortly afterwards, only for the ball to eventually go forward, and shortly after it was booted out to complete proceedings.

Words © Richard Ashton

All images – Alligin Photography © Neil Kennedy

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