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UK Armed Forces confirmed a third-place finish in the 2023 International Defence Rugby Cup on Sunday with a 24-12 win over New Zealand in Vannes.

Assistant Coach, Lt Col Tim Osman (RA), said in the build-up that the team would “like nothing better than to return home with a win over the Defence Blacks”, and, with seven red shirt representatives in the starting line-up and a further three on the bench, UKAF set about achieving their ambition.

The Kiwis’ Haka was powerful, but there was nothing their pack could do to stop the UKAF eight from scoring the first try, hooker Jamie Roberts on the end of a five-metre lineout drive.

Scrum-half Joe Parkin was on the end of an offload to finish off some patient phase play – and an eye-catching break from Spr Jack Johnson (RE) – before the first quarter was up, and with a 14-0 advantage UKAF had their destiny in their own hands.

New Zealand responded with a converted try from a long-range counter-attack just before the break, and then scored another two minutes after the restart to pull the deficit back to three points.

But Spr Cameron McDonald (RE) settled nerves with some outstanding footwork on the left, after Rfn Vereimi Qorowale (Rifles) had opened things up with a 50-metre burst down the right touchline, and even though there were 20 minutes remaining UKAF had a big enough buffer and medals to add to their collection, 24-12 the final score.

Elsewhere, Gnr Senitiki Nayalo (7 Para RHA) was back in the Coventry line-up for their first competitive game of the season, and at the heart of one of the biggest results of the opening round of the Premiership Rugby Cup.

Coventry hosted Saracens at Butts Park Arena, and despite the reigning Premiership champions twice taking the lead in the first half, Cov responded to tie things up 14-all at the break, before scoring the only points of the second half to record a 28-14 victory in front of a record crowd at the venue.

Also this weekend, Bdr Bethan Dainton (RA) started for Leeds Rhinos as they rounded off their regular season campaign with a 24-0 win over Wigan at Headingley. The win confirmed Leeds’ place in the Super League semi-finals, and the Rhinos face a challenging trip to St Helens on Saturday, September 23rd in a repeat of the Challenge Cup final.

Words © New Dogs, Old Tricks

Header and featured image © UKAF Rugby