Skip to main content

The Army Senior Women took their first step towards retaining the Inter Service Championship title, thanks to a 36-8 win over the Royal Air Force at Kingsholm.

Any big match will bring early nerves, and the Army seemed to have them in abundance in the opening exchanges at Kingsholm.

There was a fumble from the kick off which was picked up by an offside player, another fumble from a 22-metre drop-out, and a pair of lineouts which were lost against the throw. The RAF’s key players, not least England international Amy Cockayne – injured 12 months ago – had also come to play in the loose as well as the set piece.

All of these combined to put the red shirts under considerable pressure in their own half, but while there was a penalty from Sarah Graham which opened the scoring there were also massive let-offs for the Army, with Graham missing her first attempt and flanker Charlie Murray having a try ruled out for being in front of the kicker.

There were a couple of penalties which the Army won, but the blue waves were relentless, and with 10 minutes gone the RAF had the try they deserved. It was a quality score, too, Nicole Burger hitting a great line off Cockayne to turn on the pace. Her offload was even better, which made Carys Williams-Morris’s try all the easier to finish.

But the Army had pace to burn in their backline, too, and – against the run of play, it has to be said – they struck in superb fashion.

A set play from a scrum saw centres SSgt Jade Mullen (AGC (SPS)) and Gnr Amy Carr (RA) draw in their opposite numbers, creating space for SSgt Louise Dodd (QARANC) on the outside. Pte Courtney Pursglove (RLC) was there, too, and in the blink of an eye she had rounded the final defender to score in the corner she had made her own in 2022.

Just as she did in 2022, Pte Courtney Pursglove enjoyed another fine performance at Kingsholm.

This visibly lifted the Army, Lt Sally Bellhouse (RAVC) making a rampaging charge, and with a high tackle on SSgt Mullen there was a kick to the corner for a lineout.

This went off-line, but with the RAF’s discipline crumbling the red shirts set up camp on the line. Lt Bellhouse came close a couple of times, Annie Forbes saw yellow, and while the Army saw a massive overlap go begging on the right they maintained possession and SSgt Rae Metters (REME) crashed over to put them in front for the first time.

Pte Pursglove had been handed the responsibilities from the tee, and while she had not converted her own try on the right touchline there was no problem from the left, making the score 12-8 with just over 20 minutes played.

If the first try had been superb and the second patient, the third was straight out of the top drawer. The previous efforts were both team tries, but the third was all about Pte Pursglove. Turnover ball was shipped to her wing, and the heavy traffic was taken out of the equation by a lovely weighted grubber, which sat up for Pte Pursglove exactly how she would have wanted, and the pace from 60 metres did the rest.

With a couple of big breaths the conversion was added, and all of a sudden the Army had a double-digit lead at 19-8, meaning Forbes’s sin binning had been punished to the full.

There could have been a second yellow for the RAF, too, when the ball was batted down during an attempted interception of an Army attack. But there was nevertheless another try to celebrate, as the red shirts won the scrum, remained patient, and Sgt Sarah Batley (AGC (SPS)) was over.

With Pte Pursglove adding the conversion the Army went into the break having scored 26 unanswered points to lead 26-8, but with Cockayne showing her dedication to keep on carrying an apparent injury into the second half and the RAF going for the Inter Service Championship title there was going to have to be more of the same from the red shirts when play resumed.

Pte Pursglove got the first points with a penalty, but the rest of the third quarter saw momentum swing the RAF’s way.

There was a penalty sent to the corner in front of the Shed, and a couple of lineouts in dangerous positions on the main stand side. Williams-Morris had a powerful run down the left touchline, too, which had the red shirts scrambling.

But whereas in the opening minutes these opportunities had been turned into points, this time around the red shirts held firm, and the three-try lead remained.

This allowed the Army to play more of their game, looking to attack from deep and keep the ball alive through backs and forwards alike. One great example came with 15 minutes to play, when Spr Lauren Brooks (RE) broke through three tackles before sending an out-of-the-back offload to Lt Bellhouse to take play up to the 22.

The opportunity did not come to anything, but it was a clear indication of the control and confidence with which the red shirts were playing.

Having done so much on their own line, the Army then looked to finish things off in style at the other. But a flowing attack was ended by a penalty being conceded, and a strong-looking maul instead have the ball turned over.

Indeed, both attacks were being nullified by outstanding defensive efforts, typified by a try saving tackle from LCpl Millie Williams (AGC (RMP)) on a rampaging Burger.

But with five minutes to play the Army put the seal on the contest. A SSgt Dodd break put the team onto the front foot, and while the RAF scrambled initially there was no stopping Pte India King (RLC) when she got the ball five metres out. Pte Pursglove converted and the job was done.

Next stop, Twickenham!

CLICK HERE for information about Army Navy at Twickenham on Saturday, May 13th.

Words © New Dogs, Old Tricks

All images – Alligin Photography © Army v RAF Match


A full image gallery from the match is available HERE all images are free to download for personal use.