Last Friday night brought a rare red shirt derby clash, with the Army Scotland and Masters squads going head-to-head at Biggar RFC.
Both groups are preparing for their respective Inter-Service Championships, the Masters facing the RAF and Royal Navy on the same weekends as their Senior Men and Senior Women counterparts, and Army Scotland taking on their other Service rivals at Murrayfield in May.
The game was unsurprisingly a physical encounter played in perfect conditions for fast, attacking rugby. Army Scotland were on the back foot for long periods, but an interception try and a second seven pointer put them 14-6 up at the break.
The Masters got an intercept try of their own late in the game which put the contest’s outcome back into the balance, but while they piled on the pressure Army Scotland held out to record a 17-13 victory.
For the Masters the game came at the end of a training week at Redford Barracks in Edinburgh, and head coach, Capt Mark Eastley (RE), says that it was a worthwhile exercise for all concerned.
“Our intent was to ensure that our playing styles and principles were fully cemented into this year’s Inter-Services squad,” he said, “which was achieved with some areas going back to basics, and improving our tackling, passing and decision making.
“Although we sat on the wrong side of the scoreline we performed well. Army Scotland played with speed and aggression in defence, testing us mentally and physically throughout, with their relentless line speed making life difficult for us to get go-forward ball at times, although a few wise heads and some chip and grubber kicks ensured that the defence stayed honest.
“The pressure that Army Scotland were placing on us led to two mistakes which resulted in a pair of very well taken tries by Army Scotland. We did manage to camp in their 22 for the final 10 minutes, but were unable to convert that pressure into points due to the forced errors we made by the relentless Army Scotland defence.
“It was a hard fought contest on both sides. It was certainly a challenge we would want to repeat and hopefully we can in the near future.”
Army Scotland head coach, Capt Si Talbot (RAC), concurred with the value of such a fixture.
“It was a significant opportunity to measure where both teams are against tough opposition,” he commented. “We knew all along that the Masters would be a tough nut to crack. Fit, aggressive, well drilled, it would always be a tough test, and it was. They had the upper hand for significant parts of the game, threatening the line in well executed strike plays and adding variety through the boots of the half-backs.
“We prepared well with a refreshed squad of 25 players. New faces brought some fresh ideas and ways of doing business, which we were able to blend seamlessly with our already tried and tested techniques.
“Overall, as cliched as it sounds, the winner was, as ever, Army Rugby, with the game played out with plenty of crowd support.”
The Masters are next in action against Camberley on March 18th, while Army Scotland will have the opportunity to rectify February’s narrow loss to Stirling County when they host the reverse fixture at Redford Barracks, also on March 18th.
Tickets for the 2023 Inter-Services Championship are now on sale.
CLICK HERE for information about the Army v RAF at Kingsholm, Gloucester, on Saturday, April 15th.
CLICK HERE for information about Army Navy at Twickenham on Saturday, May 13th.
Words © New Dogs, Old Tricks
Header and Featured Image – Alligin Photography © Army Rugby Union