Against a backdrop of injuries and facing a well drilled English Students side UKAFRL produced a 10-22 winning display that signalled not only their intent, but potential in the run up to this summer’s World Cup.
The morale boosting win was lauded by vice captain Cpl James Hutchinson, who said: “I thought our scramble and goal line defence was brilliant, we were really happy with keeping them scoreless in the second half.
“That came from our attitude and enthusiasm to work for each other. Our attack looked good as well, so we are in a good place going into the next game against the Students and onto the World Cup.”
Head coach Flt Lt Damian Clayton said: “This week has been a bit of a milestone, I have felt a tangible change in the cohesion of the team. We had some adversity this week with injuries and niggles, but we are getting across the line now. It was a massive game for us, the players have responded really well, and the players who have come in, have put themselves in contention also.”
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He added: “Yes we have lots to work on, our completion rate in the first half was poor, penalty count saw us under it, but it was how they reacted to it that pleased me.
“We could have had a further three tries and were unlucky not to be further ahead. Our attitude in defence was great throughout, committing numbers into the tackle and working hard for each other. You could sense our confidence grow and the result was really down to a dogged determination to work as a team - ours.”
After a combative start from both sides in slippery conditions, Sam Swire stormed over in the eighth minute after some good work from the hosts, despite AB Ryan Matthews and Cpl Steve Wicks desperate attempts to hold him up on the line.
With the conversion missed the Service side eclipsed the score in the next play to lead, after a SAC Adam Flintham charge down saw the pint-size powerhouse collect the dropping ball and slip over the line, with Matthews slotting over for 4-6 after 11 minutes.
Three minutes later SAC Scott Stevenson was denied a try when the referee called a knock on.
The Students dug deep after being pinned into their 10-metre line as an error in middle of the park from the pressing military men saw Nathan Hill break with pace to score, which Ben Stead converted.
Juggling his pack Clayton then saw Chf Tech Garry Dunn limp off with a dead leg as further injuries beset his plans.
After the break the students failed to ground the ball when in for a score, and they were punished on 62 minutes with a stunning Wray break on the right that saw the Service man run 50-metres for an unconverted try.
It was all Armed Forces now as Pte Micky Hoyle produced his customary charge down and try three minutes later, but again the extra two-points were missed as Matthews just could not find his range from out wide.
Vice captain Cpl James Hutchinson got in on the act after great work from Flintham and Mne Birdsall set him free out wide on the Students 20-metre. Two clever jinks inside saw him over for a cracking score with two Students players hanging off his back. Hoyle converted for a 10-20 score with 10 minutes left.
Wray was then inches from a break away following an interception as he slipped and just could not pick up the spinning ball.
Minutes later Hankinson narrowly missed grounding a clever kick through, before a high tackle on Brown, saw Matthews kick the penalty from 10-metres for a final 10-22 score.