Combined Services 34—Barbarians 28
A poignant Remembrance Day ceremony at the Brickfields, Plymouth gave way to a superb game of rugby before a large vocal crowd.
The foundation for the Combined Services victory by 34pts – 28 was a huge performance by the flying Gunner Sammy Speight who scored three magnificent tries against a tough defence.
Putting the icing on the cake was left to Navy scrum half replacement Jack Foster. Only minutes after being called on, with the Services lead but a single point, he dotted down in the corner. Even at 34pts—28 the military were far from safe as one twinkle from Welsh internationals Ceri Sweeney or Barrie Davies could have turned the outcome on its head. Would we have cared ? — too right!
The Services faced a mixture of Premiership experience and junior internationals playing that BaaBaas trademark of working the ball. London Welsh’s Alex Davies at scrum half was innovative and smoothly launched 15-man attacks. This paid a good dividend and despite Sammy Speight’s tries, the ‘Club’ maintained a lead going into the final quarter. Maybe at that stage there was just the faintest hint of ‘blowing’ from some quarters.
This was Apo Satala’s final final appearance on a Services’ rugby pitch. Captain of Fiji at 7s and XVs, few men have had a greater influence on Armed Forces rugby—ever. As a mark of respect Apo led the Services onto the pitch and he did not disappoint. Wonderful carries and ‘trademark’ hits ensured he went out at the top.
A second phenomenon was 41 year old Chris Budgen, no longer playing Premiership rugby with Exeter but fit as a four-ton flea. Those who are looking forward to Twickers on 3 May 2014 could well find tight head prop Chris leading the charges.
A hugely fast flowing game saw Jack Prasad sell outrageous dummies, Darrel Ball at lock cover more ground than most whilst REME prop ‘Turkish’ Titchard-Jones and the Sapper’s lock Ralph Cooke produced muscle to great effect. Behind the grunting from dark crevices centre Peceli Nacamavuto carved gaps into the BaaBaas mid-field.
In turn Ledua Jope and Maccu Koroiyandi, both former skippers of Fiji U20 took the game to the BaaBaas, driving full tilt to set up attacking rucks. This highlighted an apparent difference in that the Services XV was full of leaders capable of taking the momentum forward.
It may be a cliché but the Services looked, certainly in the final quarter, as though they ‘wanted it more’. They forced the BaaBaas’ tacklers to earn their shirt and, in-turn, stood their ground in defence—a sure recipe for a great team performance.
The BaaBaas fixture is an invitation for both sided to strut their stuff which they did with great pride before an appreciative crowd at the Brickfields. Entertainment with an edge.