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Capt Bill Tiko, coach of 8 Trg Bn REME, emphasised the power of rugby in creating lifelong friendships after watching his side kick off the season in style with a 30-15 success against 1 PWRR.

In the opening game of the ARU’s Unit Premiership Showcase Day, a predominantly youthful 8 Trg Bn side started phenomenally in racing into an 18-0 lead, only for their opponents to roar back.

However, 8 Trg Bn responded with two further tries to set the seal on an entertaining contest which showed the quality of the competition impressively.

And Capt Tiko lauded the afternoon in Aldershot – which also saw 12 Regt RA defeat reigning champions 1 YORKS – as he commented: “It’s been a long time coming and great to have Unit rugby back properly – post-Covid we struggled a little last year, but this year should be really good.

“It was very exciting and a big thumbs up to the Army Rugby Union for putting it all together.

“It’s not easy to get everyone together, and especially us as a training centre, it is not easy to bring the players off their course. So I would like to give everyone in the chain of command a big thank you.”

The coach has been involved in Unit and Corps rugby for more than 20 years, and says the sport plays a vital role in the lives of the players.

He explained: “The lads are studying so much, so rugby is their break and release. It’s so good for their mental well-being and in the bigger picture, giving them something outside of work and the friendships they build.

“Some of my friends like (Director of Community Rugby) Maj Marc Wilding, I’ve known my whole Army career and the friendship is built on the rugby field. I’m sure there are a lot of people like that who have friendships and brotherhoods from it.”

The quality of rugby on show was tremendous at times, not least as Cfn Kafoa bagged an early brace on the wing for 8 Trg Bn, with Capt Tiko stating: “He’s knocking on the Army front door and has been sighted by the Head Coach last year. He perhaps just needs to be consistent with his play.”

Having kicked off the season with a win, Capt Tiko is looking forward to what is to come, though explained some of the challenges Army rugby faces, the nuances of the job meaning it is not easy to build consistency.

He ended: “As a trainee establishment, we will have some people on courses for three or four months, so we have to keep rebuilding the team.

“The longest course we have is a tech one which is longer than a year, while some are as short as two or three weeks, so we are always changing our players.

“From last season we only have a third of the team – the majority are all new boys. So we develop them – but the unfortunate thing is they then get deployed somewhere else!”

Words © Richard Ashton | Images © Army Rugby Union