Influential fly-half 2Lt Henry Lapslie (Scots) praised his side’s togetherness as the Army Under 23s kept their Inter-Services Championship hopes alive with a 19-9 defeat of the RAF at Aldershot.
Having fallen behind to an early AS1 Kieran Jenkins penalty, the hosts hit back as Lapslie converted a second try in as many weeks from Spr Ryan Eastley (RE) to give the Army a lead they never relinquished.
A second Jenkins penalty cut the gap to a point at the break, but the Army came out firing in the second half and took control as Lapslie added the extras to a score from No. 8 LBdr Tokaduadua (RA).
Pte Harrish Fishwick (Mercian) was next to cross from close range, and while Jenkins kept his side in the contest with a third penalty, it proved to be the last points of the night despite the Army having to defend the final stages with 13 men after a pair of yellow cards.
A reservist studying at the University of Strathclyde, 2Lt Lapslie revealed: “We all stuck together and played solidly, it was a massive defensive effort at the end when we were down to 13 men and we didn’t let them cross the line, which was ideal.
“We maybe could have executed a bit better in the final third, but even when things weren’t going our way – three yellow cards again – we dug so deep and still managed to score the only tries of the game.”
It was a rollercoaster week for the stand-off, who plays his civilian rugby for Glasgow Hawks, having been forced off with a knee injury during the first half against the Navy before starring against the RAF – albeit also picking up a yellow card.
He continued: “The Navy wasn’t ideal, but we worked hard during the week, and I was able to do the full 80 minutes so that was good.
“The U23s has been great for me. Balancing my studies and everything else, the coaching staff have been so good – coming down and playing in a professional environment is an amazing opportunity.
“To play for the Army is massive, one of the proudest moments of my life when I’ve pulled on the Red Shirt and it’s just left me wanting more. It’s honestly so hard to put into words.”
Both IS matches were hard-fought affairs, and with the squad having also won their five warm-up games, Lapslie believes the future is bright as he becomes to old to return.
He explained: “The quality was good which is positive not just for this year but next as well – there’s a few boys leaving the squad, myself included, but the bulk will be back.
“We’ve got 18-year-olds in the squad who can be around it for five years, so it’s so great to have the mix of experience.”
Along with the quality, another feature of both games was the passion coming from the crowd, and the star man signed off by commenting: “When I’m playing I don’t think about it, but straight afterwards when you see how proud people are on their faces – not just the Army, but the RAF and the Navy – it’s so nice to see and exciting.”
Words © Richard Ashton
Header and featured image – Alligin Photography © Andrew Fosker