COMBINED SERVICES 15—31 BARBARIANS
Coming off the back of last year’s defeat in Plymouth, the Barbarians were always going to make the 2014 Remembrance Day match a ‘toughie’. The Services’ task was made harder by some surprising ‘call-ins’ during selection followed by a number of important ‘call-offs’, including CS / Navy skipper Dave Pascoe and Army skipper Darrell Ball.
That said the Services’ team was buoyant after 24 hours together and the players were ‘up for a great match’. Morale is everything!
In the first half the Services’ pack, with the RAF’s lock Josh McNally and No 7 Chris Mundy (REME) to the fore, fracked the BaaBaas scrum and dominated their lines-out. From broken play Ledua Jope (RE) eyed the defence and, sprinting over a ruck, had a fine run ‘hey diddle diddle’ that certainly lit the match fuse.
The BaaBaas opened with a try from former Navy ‘flyer’ Josh Drauniniu. The Club attacked with panache but under pressure threw one too many ‘wild ones’. Army centre Peceli Nacamavuto (RE) thought ‘vernaka vakalevu’ and ran the length of The Rec. Fly half James Dixon (RE) slotted for 7 points. Royal Engineers 7pts—BaaBaas 5 at half time.
The second half went to the Baas Baas as they brought on a series of heavy forwards to shore up the set pieces. Exeter Chiefs and England U20 flanker Charlie Walker-Blair started to rampage a bit taking multi-tackles before off-loading. Walker-Blair was accorded Man of the Match and, for the record, Jope and Mattie Dwyer also put in first class performances. Dwyer (was it a shimmy or a dummy—or just muscle spasm?) set off on a great foray down the wing. The Swansea air is obviously doing him a power of good.
The BaaBaas gelled well for the fourth quarter but the Services were far from finished (morale still left in the tank). Marsh Cormack set up a strong position and Luke Robinson (Army), replacement flanker for Chris Mundy, spearheaded a mighty thrust for a spirited try.
By the time Jack Prasad was called on at Fly Half the Services pack was on the back foot – and it stayed there until the final whistle. In the spirit of the Remembrance Day Match the Services coaches had emptied the bench so that the only Army forward left dancing in the rain was 42 year old Chris Budgen (R Welsh) — for the Barbarians!
In grim conditions, the BaaBaas reverted to ‘entertainment mode’ to the delight of a soggy crowd of 7,000. Josh Drauniniu scored a second but it might have been more had Services’ tackling not been top-notch. With a final flourish the BaaBaas scored two quality tries under the balcony of the Prawn Cocktail Stand to seal a well-deserved victory by 31pt — 15.
Unsung stalwarts included Gerhard Wessels (RE) who controlled the Services’ mid field and tackled out of his skin, and the ever alert Navy No9 Johnny Stephen who ‘terriered’ his way from point to point, keeping his side going forward. Tams Tamatawale (RLC) came on and produced a great run—signs for the season are good.
Without doubt this was a Poppy Day celebration by rugby people in support of the Royal British Legion. The Barbarians presented a cheque for £10,000 – superb.