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Try scorer Sig Drew Stephenson (R Signals) said the Army Under 23s’ 8-7 defeat at the RAF was still a “good game to play in” despite the home side taking the spoils right at the death.

In filthy conditions at Witney, a sizable crowd were treated to a nerve-jangling and low-scoring encounter in which the visitors went into the break with a 7-0 advantage on the back of a tremendous LCpl Chris Hubberstey (REME) conversion after Sig Stephenson crossed on the left.

Twice the reigning Inter-Services champions were denied the chance to add to their tally as both ATPR Max Percival (AAC) and Pte Orisi Katalau (RLC) were unable to get the ball down after crossing the line in first-half stoppage time, and they were made to pay later.

Firstly, RAF hooker AS2 Josh Peacock went over at the back of a rumbling maul, and then AS1 Kieran Jenkins’ injury-time penalty gave the hosts a measure of revenge for their own heart-breaking defeat of 12 months before.

Reflecting on a captivating contest in the heavy rain, Sig Stephenson reflected: “It was a hard-fought game of rugby and we played well, especially in the first half. The structure was good, but maybe in the second half we were a bit slow out the blocks.

“It was a good game to play in and I think probably to watch as well.

“It was a shame we missed a few penalties and also couldn’t get over the line a second time at the end of the first half – it could have been a different story.”

He continued: “It was cold at times and there were a couple of mis-communications (where no ball was available) which weren’t ideal.

“Unfortunately, from our point of view we maybe should have shot the line more towards the end, but the RAF played really well.”

Despite the dreadful weather, a healthy crowd created an excellent atmosphere in Oxfordshire, with some supporters coming from more than three hours away.

And Sig Stephenson is hoping to have another bumper crowd when Army host the Royal Navy at Aldershot, a game in which a win could mean the title is defended.

He ended: “We had a few Army people here and it’s great to have that kind of support. It’s what we want as a team and helps us play better.

“We’ll definitely come back against the Navy and see what we can do.”

The Navy visit Aldershot on Wednesday, November 30. Kick-off is at 19:00hrs and entry is free.

Words © Richard Ashton

Header and Featured Image – Alligin Photography © Lee Crabb