With some adaptations made to the Inter Services Scotland tournament for 2023, the Army Scotland team would cross swords with RAF Scotland and Northern Ireland on Wednesday 7 June 23 once again at the Oriam Stadium, Edinburgh.
Following a successful training camp, the team looked sharp, although having sustained some injuries early, some adjustments were required, particularly with the forwards.
With the sun beating down on a glorious Edinburgh skyline, both teams made their way to the venue, where following a pitch inspection and briefing from the officials, efficiently organised, as ever, by the Army Rugby Union Referee Society, the teams were ready.
Following a whistle blast, at 1500 on the nose, we were off.
The RAF having won the coin toss, elected to kick, and did so. A high floating drop kick into the Army ’22 saw a miscommunication between full back and right wing, and the ball bounce into touch.
Demonstrating their athleticism and skill, the RAF easily won the LO and quickly moved the ball to their first attacking pod. A hard carry, deft tip on, and some ground made, the RAF had the upper hand. As the ball carrier crashed into the Army midfield, they were met with a solid red wall, and despite snuffing out the RAF attack, the Army were penalised at the breakdown. Electing to settle the nerves after the first skirmish, the RAF #10 took the 3 points on offer.
Army 0 v RAF 3.
A well-executed restart saw the Army quickly gather possession and make some searing forays into the RAF 22. Met with a desperate, but resilient D, the RAF were able to win the ball back at the breakdown. Quickly passing the ball to the RAF fullback, he kicked for the safety of touch; but missed. Caught on the full by the Army #15, he demonstrated his pace and was able to put the Army #14 into space, where capitalising on a missed tackle, he quickly turned on the afterburners, scoring in the corner.
A missed kick at goal, saw the Army go 5 – 3 up.
Not easily deterred, the RAF came back hard, phase after bruising phase saw the Army in D, which remained solid, but the relentless pressure told, and a gap appeared on the left, which was quickly exploited by the RAF back three. Try, RAF. A looping soft draw saw the skilful RAF #10 shape the ball in between the sticks and take the extras.
Army 5 v RAF 10.
A physical 10 minutes followed where despite almost continual pressure, the Army couldn’t make the last pass stick, and as a result, the forwards were afforded the opportunity to get close in a series of powerful and aggressive scrums. With the clock turning to 31 minutes, the RAF needed no second invite to kick for the corner and once again demonstrate their prowess at the LO, quickly winning the ball and gathering momentum in a maul. With a cry of ‘use it’ from the man in the middle, the RAF did just that and muscled over under the posts to secure their second try of the match, which once again was to see 2 more added from the conversion.
Army 5 v RAF 17.
With the final minute of play fast approaching, a series of penalties were conceded by the RAF, who by this time certainly had their tails up. The calming influence of the skipper was required, and his involvement was key; retaining the ball, moving deliberately up the field, where after three dominant phases, followed by a hot ball from #9 saw the Army #10 move the ball on a slip and the RAF wrong footed, try, Army. Quickly converted, as the players headed to the tunnel, it was all to play for.
Army 12 v RAF 17.
While the break afforded the Army a chance to re-group, the RAF came out of the changing rooms intent on protecting their lead and playing with a measured safe approach. The Army, conversely, were in no mood for safe rugby, and quickly asserted their dominance in the middle of the field, crashing through the RAF D, opening them up left and then right before a powerful run by the Army #7 saw him dot the ball down within a minute of the kick off. A missed conversion by the Army #10, saw the extras go begging, but we were back in game.
Army 17 v RAF 17.
Hard running, ferocious tackle areas and trading blows, metaphorically speaking, at scrum time saw the RAF trying hard to gather a foothold, but the Army remained steadfast in their ability to mount pressure.
Phase after phase, line breaks and ambitious passing saw the Army running amok among the RAF midfield and it was only their dogged determination and pride that stopped the onslaught, momentarily, as the men in red crossed their line once again. Following an injury to the Army #10, kicking duties had passed to the fullback, and he effortlessly added the extras.
Army 24 v RAF 17.
Looking visibly tired from the near constant Army pressure being applied, and being forced to tackle, get back up, fold and tackle once again saw the inevitable gaps appear, and, as ever, the ability of the Army to exploit gaps and win collisions saw the RAF D succumb to the overwhelming tenacity of the Army attack, and concede another try.
In what was to be the last score of the match, once again the Army #15 added the extras and ensured we ran out winners of the inaugural Army Scotland v RAF Scotland and Northern Ireland match.
Result Army 31 – RAF Scotland & NI 17.
Words © Capt Simon Talbot, SNIY
All images © Bryan Robertson