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Spirited Army A Survive Pounding

An Army A XV took a bit of a pounding at Esher on 18 January. The largely U23 team faced a gnarled and very experienced semi-pro outfit, including Fijian international Nicky Little. The Championship club played powerful rugby as though they had been together for years.

The final result of 52 pts—8 was a fair reflection of the experience and skills difference– and a somewhat pernickety referee who never quite grasped the significance of a mid-season blow-through with an obvious differential in abilities. This was particularly true in the area of the front five where the club had, and used, a massive architecturial advantage. No one caved—it was a case of stones v pounds.

All that whinging apart we must herald the start of the season –and there were some bright spots. The Army remained watertight for the first quarter largely due to gutsy tackling and getting up in the faces of the attackers. Matt Bowman (REME) was in top gear with excellent defence and was quick to get on his feet to counter attack. As skipper he certainly led his cohorts, time and again, into the teeth of the opposition attacks.

The backs functioned well on scraps. Freshman Iggy Puti (RLC) at scrum half impressed with a quick service, ability to read the game and be in the right place. Ben Seru (RE) was back from the injury that prevented him travelling to the IDRC and he finished a good team try in the third quarter.

U23 centre Scott Watkins (Royal Signals) who had an excellent U23 season was feisty and carried well. He should come into the reckoning later in the year. His centre partner Mark Winstanley (RAMC) looked the business and gave every indication that the mid field could have been dangerous with more ball. Attempts at confident recycling were fraught through comparative inexperience and having mentally to step up a gear. The Esher defence was just too quick and well organized to allow the Army necessary space.

That said the Army held their heads high, the leaders urged tired legs forward and bravely dealt with the successive waves of Championship rugby attack. Hard lesson—probably a good one !

Talking of recycling it was great to see Mal Roberts, former Army skipper and Barbarian, back in the Army stable as a backs coach. Mal is now playing and coaching at Weston and will have much to offer in the years to come.

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