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Head coach Maj Gemma Stonebridge-Smith MBE (AGC (ETS)) was full of praise for the way an inexperienced Army Women’s team overcame an early double-digit deficit to overcome the British Police 20-15 in Aldershot on Saturday afternoon.

The Police were the more coherent team in the opening quarter, scoring a deserved pair of tries given the pressure they piled on. The first was created by the forwards, creating a large blindside and a straightforward two-on-one, with the second following a quickly tapped penalty close to the Army line.

But in a contest where momentum swung dramatically more than once, the second quarter belonged to the red shirts, with three tries that showed the all-round potential when the team put the phases together.

First over the line was hooker Pte Caralee Shaw (QARANC), who darted around the back of a breakdown to dive in the corner. The third was finished by Gnr Amy Carr (RA), who was on the end of some slick handling. But the pick of the bunch was the second, Bdr Bethan Dainton (RA) taking an inside pass from her Harlequins and Welsh international squad mate Sgt Jade Mullen (AGC (SPS)) before turning on the afterburners to outstrip the defence from more than 50 metres out.

“We weren’t sweating about the score,” Maj Stonebridge-Smith commented. “We knew we had to get our processes right and in the early period the girls were still settling. Then you saw in the middle 20 and 30 minutes what we could do when we got our processes right. I’m really pleased about what the girls have done.”

Bdr Dainton’s try was the touch of class in a first half which lasted nearly an hour, and Maj Stonebridge-Smith says that both the Barbarian representative and Sgt Mullen showed their quality of personality throughout the week, leading the way in a group in which more than half had not worn the red shirt before, adding: “It’s great to have these international athletes come in and look to bring people up to their level as opposed to the other way round. It’s been great to have them with us.

Images © Alligin Photography, Scrumpix

“Leadership is a characteristic and they’re able to play and train at a high intensity but also not take themselves too seriously, and it really helps bring the rest of the players on. They’ve got a massive amount of rugby knowledge, the little bit of micro-coaching that goes on between sessions, and that really helps.”

If Bdr Dainton’s try was good, there was a rival for the standout score in the second half, thanks to Gnr Asinate Kasowaka (RA), whose neat sidestep took her into the clear on the left wing for her pace to do the rest.

That try came with 57 minutes on the clock, but any thoughts of a straightforward win were put to bed by extended periods of pressure from the Police in the final quarter. The visitors did get a try, but despite hammering away repeatedly had two more scores ruled out and could not breach the red line.

Images © Alligin Photography, Scrumpix

“There was great effort in our defence at the end, not least from the front row who had put in a big 80 minutes but was still dump tackling people in our own 22,” Maj Stonebridge-Smith added. “It shows the heart and accountability among the team today, with people putting in those few extra percent to help their team mates out.”

The Army Women are back in action in January with the first of four planned fixtures that will build up towards the 2022 Inter-Services Championship, and Maj Stonebridge-Smith says that she will have a lot of thinking to do when putting the squad together in the new year.

“There were a lot of players who were putting on the shirt for the first time, and they have put their hands up. That’s a great place to be as a coach, with a result and performance like that.”

Words © New Dogs, Old Tricks.  Header and Featured Images © Alligin Photography, Scrumpix

A full gallery of images from the match can be viewed here