Maj Andy Bennett hailed the inaugural ARU Unit Premiership Showcase Day as “really successful” following two cracking games in Aldershot on Wednesday.
The top-flight season kicked off with a 30-15 victory for an exciting young 8 Trg Bn REME outfit against 1 PWRR who hit back from 18-0 down to just three points adrift at one stage as they returned to the competition following a couple of years away.
And in a repeat of last year’s final, this time around 12 Regt RA gained their revenge on the champions 1 YORKS with a battling 18-12 triumph in a game which featured some serious physicality.
Reflecting on the afternoon, Maj Bennett – the Chairman of the Unit competitions – said: “I think it was very successful and I’m pleased with how it went – there were two really competitive games and I think we’re in for an excellent season.
“There was a little bit of rust, but the commitment and physicality was there throughout and there were a few hits which drew a few oohs and aahs from the crowd.
“The format (of having two games) is maybe something we’d like to take forward possibly later in the season – the feedback I’ve had is if we can put on events like this, whether it be in Aldershot or in different parts of the country, with four or six sides playing matches for people to come down, they can enjoy an excellent spectacle.
He continued: “It was useful for some of the Army management team who were able to see some decent players out there who maybe they hadn’t seen before – I think there were some who put their hands up for possible consideration for representative rugby later in the season.”
Images © Sue Day
Aside from the quality on show, Maj Bennett emphasised the tight links between the sport and the standards of the Army when continuing: “We believe rugby as a sport embodies the Esprit de Corps, teamwork and core values also demonstrated in the Army, and it was seen in spades today.
“There was a moment in the first game when 8 REME scored and sometimes you might have had 1PPR dropping their heads or questioning who defensively was perhaps out of position, but instead you saw their players congratulate their opponents on a really well-worked try and that was great to see.
“It reflects the true nature of rugby when played in the Army.”
The Premiership again features eight teams this season, playing a round-robin competition before the top four qualify for the play-offs and ultimately a final on May 17th.
There is also action in the Championship and the Community Knock-out cup, yet all squads have to balance the unique nature of also being on duty throughout the season, with Maj Bennett explaining: “There are some really good players who have to balance things with their other commitments.
“Today 12 Regiment have deployments all around the world and could only bring a squad of 20 – they were stripped pretty bare and they have to manage that because they don’t know when players are going to be available.
“Similarly 1 YORKS have one of their sub-units deployed and another set to be soon, while 8 REME as a training battalion there’s constant change – so the management teams need to ensure they have depth.
“However, it gives a chance for those who haven’t played much before and to involve them in a sport which as I said, reflects the Army’s values so well.”
Words © Richard Ashton | Header and Featured Images © Sue Day