A marvellous initiative for an early ‘Tens’ competition was supported by twenty clubs at Newbury on 4th September. The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment masquerading as 1 YORKS won a heart thumping final in the last few plays by 29pts—16.
Two Fijian 7s internationals and a number of Army capped players, including skipper Darrel Ball, recognised the opportunity for a ‘not so frivolous’ pipe opener and after six rounds it took a microscope to separate the men from those running hard on their heels.
Matches leading to the final were played with great gusto, the tackling was ‘execution class’ and it was interesting to see how many teams were willing to trust their men on the outside to make progress knowing support would –or even might-be quickly on hand. That said, the ‘Tens’ experiment showed teams falling into a hybrid game between XVs and 7s, instinctively unsure whether it was time for ‘hey—diddle–diddle’ or yet more lung busting stretches to the other flank. So what !
In the Semis the Dukes overcame 2013 Army Cup winners as the Welsh Guards’ mighty pack blew a gasket. 12 RA outflanked 47 RA. The final was a ‘blockbuster’.
The Gunners from Hayling Island waded into the Dukes reputation with astonishing self-belief, and were soon three tries to the good. It was not possible to hear the rallying calls within the YORKS ranks but it was unlikely Army scrum half Ian Martin would have been quiet for too long.
Forward Jim Miller caught the eye as they set about hauling in the deficit and plans were only marginally derailed when a ‘yellow’ was flashed for a fairly innocuous clothes-liner. A man light maybe stirred the Yorkshiremen from Suva to extra heights in their sixth game. They finished with two clinical tries making the tally 29 pts—15. It was a marvellous final with Kenny Dowding’s Gunners clearly a team to watch during the season.
And those Fiji internationals—shall we say ‘of yester-year’, both then Royal Scots and without any shadow of doubt the very finest ever to pull on a Red’s jersey. Emosi Naisaramaki (3 SCOTS) showed bewildering flashes of his old genius—at one point stepping into the next door County and sprinting clear only to be tackled metres short. Breathtaking.
On the opposite side of the Richter Scale was Apolosi Satala, every opposing player’s nightmare. One 50m thunder-hoofer brought the memories flooding back—bodies bouncing off his immense shoulders as he clattered to the line in the Plate Final. For those not around at the turn of the century, watching these two alone was worth the trip.
The Plate was won 39pts–22 by Gareth Parry’s 29 Regiment RLC who outlasted 33 EOD Regiment RE. Parry gave notice that he is out to add to this year’s first appearance at Twickenham.
Some eighty six high intensity matches, three hundred players, coaches rugby and coaches transport ( 3 SCOTS from Inverness!), managers barking from the touch, countless match officials and dashing bag humping physios were herded with Welsh sheepdog precision by Lt Col James Cook and WO2 Able Mataiini to prove that in 2013 there is a huge appetite at all levels for rugby in the British Army.
Talking of ‘Welsh’, Colonel Robbie Campbell was on hand to witness the improvements in Army Community rugby under VEOLIA’s generous sponsorship. It really does make a huge difference.