Wednesday 11 April 2012
The season since the Christmas break for the Army Masters had been a story of up’s and down’s, but back to back wins against Forth Valley Fossils during the Scotland training Camp and Richmond Heavies in Aldershot had helped steady the ship for Masters Head Coach SSgt Tiny Baker. However the earlier results in the season had left him with some selection headaches choosing the starting XV for this first game of the Inter Services Competition. No problems with selecting the team Captain for the tournament with SSgt Gary Windle once again leading the Masters out for the Inter Services Competition.
Straight from the kick off SSgt Dave Goddard showed he was up for the challenge with a couple of good carries at the Vultures defence. Not to be out done Cpl Atunaisa Lalauvaki playing at scum half also tested his Vultures opposite number with a little sniping run around the fringe of a scrum, the tackler did not release at the tackle area and the Army had a early penalty. Fly half WO2 Calvin Venn stepped up to take the kick which hit the post and came down in front of the Vultures defence, good chasing up meant the Masters secured the ball with Goddard going for the line but being held up just short, the ball was recycled quickly and lock Maj Andy Davie fed Cpl Lee Davies in the corner for the first try of the game 5-0 to the Masters, with the conversion missed.
The Vultures now attacked and earned a penalty after the Masters were deemed offside at the break-down, the kick was missed. The Vultures continued to press and the penalty count was mounting against the Masters with the Referee keeping them on the back foot rather than the Vultures attacking game, however a good move by the Vultures in the backs created an overlap and the Vultures from nowhere scored a try in the corner, the extras were missed so after 15 minutes the score was level at 5-5. This was the wakeup call the Masters needed and from the restart the ball was secured by some good work from Davie and WO2 Neil Griffiths doing the hard work at the break-down to secure those 50-50 balls in the tackle area.
The Vultures for once were penalised but the penalty was missed. Venn had to leave the field with a rib injury and was replaced by Sgt Rob Smart. The Masters attacked again and some good handling let Davies receive a crash ball in the centre of the park and the Vultures defenders were unable to bring him down and he crashed over for a superb try. Smart kicked the conversion for the Masters to put them again in charge for a 12-5 score line. The Masters once again went looking for another score and rather than take the points opted for a lineout five metres out.
The Vultures managed to get a hand on the ball and spoil the line-out and clear up field. The Masters continued to attract penalties from the referee but good defence from Capt Camie Hastie and the ever busy Masters Captain Windle stopped the Vultures from building momentum. The Scrum was an area being dominated by the Masters pack with SSgt Mark Eastley and fellow prop Maj Ewen Cameron taking their opposite numbers to the cleaners. However the penalty count is reaching epic proportions and the Vultures took one of these chances to add to their score 12-8. Nearing half time the Army still had some time for another attack with a great kick and chase by Maj Dom Hayakawa playing on the wing just failing to collect his kick after a 60 metre break.
Half time and the coaches have strong words for the squad about the penalty count which is allowing Vultures to stay in the game. Some changes in the backs with the injured full back WO2 Mark Kane coming off the park and being replaced from the wing by Sgt Nabs Nabakeke with SSgt Errol Jones now replacing Nabakeke on the wing.
Back on the pitch after the restart and Jones was straight into action just failing to collect a clever cross fielded kick from the gifted Smart who was starting to show his class at fly half. The Vultures cleared but the Masters had a couple of good moves first by WO2 Darrell Cooper and then by Jones who had a long strong run with his pass inside being dropped with the line begging. From the ensuing breakdown Goddard was penalised and shown a yellow card which also allowed the Vultures to clear their line. They now had an opportunity to make the one man extra pay and put some pressure on the Army line, another penalty allowed them to add to their score 12-11. This woke the Masters up and after some good drives by the forwards they then had a penalty which Smart put just wide. Lalauvaki was replaced at scrum half by SSgt Bongo Davies. This period of the game was now stop start with neither side able to string a decent passage of play together. No sooner was Goddard back on the pitch then the Referee sends a Vulture player to the bin. The Army were pushing for that next crucial score and the Vultures who were starting to tire now made lots of changes from their bench. Davies at centre was still making good yards with the Vultures defence struggling to bring him down and it was only good play by the Vultures back row forwards that were keeping them in the game. The Masters came back and after some great interchange play between Windle and Bongo Davies the scrum half went over for that all important score. The conversion was missed to make the score 17-11. Time for the Masters to make a change and on comes Masters legend Lt Col Simon Orr for his 17th cap replacing Cameron in the front row. The penalty count by both sides was still high, but it was the Masters who had the more structured game. In the back row the hard working Griffiths was replaced by Cpl Raks Rakabu who got straight into the action with some good carries. A penalty 45 metres out to the Masters allowed Smart to atone for his earlier miss and put the Masters two scores in front 20-11. It was the Masters defence that was now showing its steel with the Vultures always being forced on the back- foot by the first up tackles and try as they might they could not find a way through the Masters defence. The referee brought the game to an end, it was a rough diamond of a performance by the Masters just doing enough when it mattered during a game that really should had been over by half time. Masters Captain SSgt Garry Windle was once again selected as Man of the Match.
Army Masters Head coach SSgt Tiny Baker commented after the game:
“Scoring early for us was a double edge sword! It gave us the advantage but then we weren’t ruthless enough and didn’t stick to our game plan. We made it hard for ourselves, something we cannot do against the Navy Mariners.”
Report by WO2 Jim Evans