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The Army Women were crowned Inter-Services champions as they defeated the Royal Air Force 36-19 in a Kingsholm cracker.

The Red Shirts made a dream start and hit the front inside four minutes, winning two penalties in their opponents’ 22 before prop SSgt Sarah Batley (AGC (RMP)) barged over from close range.

Sgt Lou Dodd (QARNC) pushed her conversion attempt wide, and following a passage of frenetic play, it was the RAF who hit back towards the end of the first quarter, Flt Lt Amy Cockayne going straight through the middle of a maul to run in from 15 metres out.

AS1 Daisy Fahey knocked over the extras from a similar position to Dodd’s miss, and the Air Force’s pack power was again on show five minutes later as a staggering 25-metre maul ended with Cpl Kathryn Robinson getting the ball down for 12-5.

The shot at goal was pulled left, but a loose pass in midfield soon after was hoovered up by the hosts, full back Flt Lt Carys Williams-Morris turning on the afterburners to run in from halfway for a score added to by Fahey.

A cracking opening half-hour continued as the Army hit back, wing Lt Hannah Gilmour (RE) showing tremendous power to shake off two defenders and cross on the left from some 10 metres out.

As the half came to a close Capt Sally Bellhouse (RAVC) got the Red Shirts on the front foot with a ferocious charge off the back of a scrum inside her own 22, the No. 8 only stopped by a high tackle on halfway which enabled the Army to kick to the corner.

And while they knocked on in midfield, a scrum penalty gave the Red Shirts the ball back, it spun wide for Gilmour to grab her second.

Dodd’s touchline nudge made it 19-17 at the end of a fantastic first half, and it continued after the break with the hosts only denied following a wonderful cover tackle inches from the whitewash.

Williams-Morris then produced another scintillating break before the ball was spun wide, Bdr Charlotte Tweddle (RA) yellow carded for a high tackle on Fg Off Chelcey Greasley as she closed on a try.

A score seemed inevitable as the resultant kick to the corner and maul rumbled towards the line, only for a knock-on to give the Red Shirts another reprieve.

And in a key passage of play, they resolutely held out before heading to the other end of the pitch and hitting the front – initially held up over the line before the outstanding Bellhouse rode over at the back of surging set-piece.

Things got even better for the clinical visitors as a 40-metre burst down the left from Gilmour gave her side field position for skipper SSgt Jade Mullen (AGC (SPS)) to dance her way to the right of uprights, Dodd on target for 29-19.

With eight minutes remaining, the Army again showed their ruthlessness in the red zone as Sgt Heidi Silcox (RAMC) cut a lovely line to go under the posts, Dodd’s nudge giving her side a 17-point advantage.

The RAF continued to fight and almost scored a sensational try before once again being stopped just short, a couple more assaults again turned away from close-range mauls, before play ended with an Army knock-on in midfield.

Words © Richard Ashton

All images – Alligin Photography © Army Rugby Union

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