Bath United 35 pts — Armed Forces 7
The Royal British Legion led a poignant Standards ceremony before the Remembrance Day match at the Recreation, Bath.
The quiet thoughts of the Servicemen reflecting silently in the swirling mists gave way to a powerful game of rugby against a Bath United XV comprising Senior Academy and a few 1st XV stars.
The voices of a largely capped and mufflered crowd contrasted with the suited galleria above the South Stand. Many of the former had dined well on Clubhouse ‘Moo Pie and Chips’ to stave off a raw evening. The latter, tinkering with Prawn Sangers and stemmed glasses, had no intention of suffering the chills of the night. Contrasts apart they created a fitting atmosphere.
Bath started furiously and immediately secured a foothold in the Forces ‘22’. A try on 15 minutes was an early setback but the defensive spirit remained secure. All the more necessary, as the referee frequently whistled to indicate what must have amounted to serial infringements.
Bath, in tune with the occasion, kicked for the corner to keep the Forces on the ‘rack’ where they competed well. Bath, for all their quality, made handling errors as they hit the wall.
One missed touch allowed Army Wing Chris Leathem, playing full back, to hit the burners down the left. It was one of those situations where the ball carrier was tackled, by many, but never quite hauled to the deck by any. Leathem stood tall and strong to finish with a characteristic ‘dash’dive’. A great score was converted by Owain Davies from the touchline.
This was Will Jones’ final representative match in a Services’ shirt. On merit Will skippered and led the Services onto the pitch– and he did not disappoint. Courageous contact and ‘trademark’ support for every ball carrier ensured he went out at the top. Oh –and there was the little matter of that ‘yellow’ but even the replay doesn’t show why.
As an aside, and no one wants mayhem, it is amazing that a ‘yellow’ is deemed appropriate in a Charity Match. This one tipped the balance and Bath crossed and converted twice during the Forces period for penance.
Chris Budgen, no longer playing Premiership rugby, is at 42 years of age as fit as a fifty-ton tank. With hooker Mattie Dwyer and loose head Dave Manning (RAF) he completed a rock hard front row. Josh McNally (RAF) at lock covered the ground and produced more frontal assaults than most. Dave Bates back to form at No8 made his presence felt throughout.
Such a quick game demanded it was either a quick ruck or a turnover. The former allowed scrum half Tom Chennell a bit of space for manoeuvre and early receivers Maccu Koroiyandi and Ken Dowding took the game to the Bath.
Despite the scoreboard the Armed Forces XV fought manfully and were always prepared to carry the momentum forward. In a (light) purple passage they repeatedly drove to the line and forced the Bath tacklers to earn their contracts—which they did.
Bath were polished and subtle, and played with finesse. The Armed Forces were tenacious and well organized but, a man down up-front they twice failed to cover the reverse inside pass, the hallmark of clever confident rugby, and that made the difference.
The Bath United v Armed Forces fixture is an invitation for both sided to strut their stuff which they did with great pride before an appreciative crowd at the ‘the Rec’. It was great Monday evening entertainment. Where else could you find such good value for money on a wet November night in Somerset.