By: Paul Hopkins
The British Army were worthy victors over Swansea in an open rugby thriller at St Helen’s.
It was difficult to tell that it was a friendly match as it was played in great spirit with both sides giving it their all.
Swansea began strongly and centre Josh Martin stayed solid in the tackle, managing to offload to lock Gavin Ronan. Hooker Paul John and prop Tom Sloane then charged over the twenty-two, but the Army secured an important turnover. Winger Gnr Edwards attempted to counterattack, but he lost the ball forward.
Centre Ryan Evans and winger Sam Evans, making his Whites debut, combined well in midfield to send John powering up to within five metres of the Army line. However, the supporting flanker Jon Vaughan became isolated, giving away a penalty.
From a defensive lineout, the ball spilled loose and the Army were forced to ground it behind their own try line. From the scrum, the Whites got the ball quickly out to their backs through the hands of Martin, who fed Ryan Evans for the opening try. Fly half Rory Garrett converted.
The visitors looked to hit back immediately with fly half LCpl Dixon making a break through the middle, finding prop LCpl Reeves in support. Home full back Rhys Williams secured a crucial turnover at the breakdown and managed to clear his lines.
The Army came close to scoring in the corner through Edwards, but the Whites defence managed to track back, albeit giving away a penalty from offside, which Dixon chipped to the corner.
From the lineout, the powerful Army forwards powered over the line with hooker LSgt Dwyer claiming the try. Dixon converted.
Swansea flanker Jack Perkins was penalised for diving over the top of a ruck, allowing Dwyer and flanker Capt Lennox to link up and take possession up to the twenty-two. Dixon danced through a tackle to set up prop Cpl Smith, but the Whites’ turned over the ball.
Swansea were desperately close to taking the lead on the stroke of half time when Rhys Williams sprinted down the wing, but the supporting Martin and Sloane were unable to make the most of the attack.
Half-time:- Swansea 7 British Army 7
Swansea looked to reassert their authority on the match during the early exchanges of the second half. Sloane intercepted a loose pass and the Army were penalised for offside at the breakdown. However, a poor lineout throw by John brought an end to the move.
A poor clearance by the visitors saw Sam Evans pick up the ball and throw a long pass out to Jedd Evans on the other wing, but the Army tracked back to defend.
Replacement winger Bdr Davies raced on the wing, but he took the wrong option by throwing a low pass that was knocked forward, rather than keeping ball in hand.
The Army forwards mauled forward from a lineout and winger Pte Bulumakau probed the Swansea defence. The visitors came close to scoring, but Martin stole the ball and was tackled behind his own line.
From the attacking set piece, scrum half Sgt Chennell popped a pass out wide for Bulumakau to score. Dixon converted.
The Army went in search of a third try and were desperately close to scoring out wide, despite 10 players in midfield otherwise engaged in a fight, but a forward pass spoiled the move.
A turnover at the ruck saw Bulumakau power past opposite winger Jedd Evans, although Edwards lost the ball forward at the base of a ruck when the Army had six men over out wide.
When Perkins collected a lineout, a loose kick by Martin was picked up by the Army. Davies looked set to score, but a superb tackle by replacement flanker Andrew Hughes prevented a certain try.
Replacement number eight Cpl Dawson powered forward, forcing Perkins to kill the ball. He was promptly sent to the sin-bin and Dixon kicked the penalty goal.
The Army sealed victory when Dawson raced over halfway and found Bulumakau, who chipped over the top and regathered to score a superb try. Dixon missed the conversion.
The Whites never gave up and Martin made a break through the middle. He was supported by Hughes, but the move broke down and Dixon cleared to win the game for the visitors.
Next up for Swansea is a trip to Bridgend in the league, while the British Army travel to Bedford.
Full-time:- Swansea 7 British Army 22
Tries:- Ryan Evans (14)
Cons:- Rory Garrett (15)
Yellow card:- Jack Perkins (70)
British Army scorers:
Tries:- LSgt Dwyer (28), Pte Bulumakau (55, 73)
Cons:- LCpl Dixon (29, 56)
Pens:- LCpl Dixon (70)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Referee:- Matthew Thomas
Weather:- Cloudy, 12C
Man of the match:- Pte Bulumakau
15 Rhys Williams (rep: Lawrence Howley 59)
14 Sam Evans
13 Ryan Evans
12 Josh Martin
11 Jedd Evans
10 Rory Garrett (rep: David Watts 70)
9 Martin Luckwell (rep: Rhodri Wells 70)
1 Tom Sloane © (rep: Dan Kenny 70)
2 Paul John (rep: Jack Cambriani 68)
3 Richard Murphy (rep: Mitchell Walsh 64)
4 Gavin Ronan
5 Matthew Dodd (rep: Jon Fox 41)
6 Jon Vaughan (rep: Jon Fox 22-31)
7 Jack Perkins
8 Emyr Wlliams (rep: Andrew Hughes 47)
16 Jack Cambriani
17 Dan Kenny
18 Mitchell Walsh
19 Jon Fox
20 Andrew Hughes
21 Rhodri Wells
22 David Watts
23 Lawrence Howley
British Army team:
15 Rgr Leathem
14 Pte Bulumakau
13 Sig Fatiaki
12 Lt Simpson
11 Gnr Edwards (rep: Bdr Davies 41)
10 LCpl Dixon
9 Sgt Chennell (rep: Gnr Vunivesilevu 56)
1 LCpl Reeves (rep: Cpl Titchard-Jones 56)
2 LSgt Dwyer (rep: LBdr Austin 40+4)
3 Cpl Smith (rep: Cpl Horner 56)
4 Cpl Bean
5 Capt Burnham (rep: Cpl Parkins 56)
6 Capt Lennox ©
7 Cpl Mundy
8 Cpl Koroiyadi (rep: Cpl Dawson 56)
16 LBdr Austin
17 Cpl Titchard-Jones
18 Cpl Smith
19 Cpl Parkins
20 Cpl Dawson
21 Gnr Vunivesilevu
22 Pte Wheeldon
23 Bdr Davies
24 Cpl Horner