Men’s Elite Competition
The men’s tournament was once again dominated by the seemingly invincible Army team, which displayed a strong performance throughout the competition to win the Elite competition for the third year in a row.
The Army headed up Pool C along with Loughborough Students, the Rugby Lions and Premiership side Bath and below we track their path through the stages of the tournament.
The Army’s first match was against Loughborough Students, who missed out on playing the Army the week before at Rugby Rocks because they were late to arrive to the tournament. The start of the match was very promising for the young Loughborough side, who managed to keep Amy from scoring for most of the first half (albeit due to some errors on the part of the Army team). Eventually, after a little over 5 minutes, the try came from Roko, which he quickly followed up with another to finish the half 14-0. The second half saw Roko get his third try of the match with replacement Knoxy adding a try to make it 28-0, despite some good play from the Loughborough side during the second half.
After their first win Army faced the Rugby Lions, who were coached this year by Ben Gollings (rugby sevens star). It was an exciting game with both sides displaying some great attacking rugby and cover tackles. Again, Army did not score for over 5 minutes until Ben Seru scored two tries side by side right before the half, which created some great momentum that was followed up with some great skill from Roko that took the army into the half up by 21-0. Army came back strong after the half scoring in less than a minute and following up with another try from Roko to make it 33-0. Army added another try from Roko for his usual hat-trick, followed by a try from Captain Wes and Bunny to finish the match with a very strong 52-0 lead.
In the final match of day one Army faced premiership side Bath in a highly anticipated match which drew a large crowd. Bath started out strong to put some points on the board with the first try, but despite strong pressure Army managed to steal possession shortly thereafter and shop the ball wide to star player Roko, who beat out two Bath players to bring the score to an even 7-7. This was followed up by a try from Ben Seru and another from Roko to make it 21-7 at half time with Army in the lead.
The second half continued to be exciting with some great attacking rugby and some great defence in return by both sides. However, an Army error gave Bath a great opportunity with a scrum on our 5 metre line, which led to a try for Bath to make it 21-12. But the Army clearly wanted the last word and Ben Seru took the opportunity to get the final try to finish the match 28-12 to give the Army the lead in pool C and pushing them into the knock-out stage of the competition.
The next day Army came prepared for for the knock-out stage of the competition where they faced Storm 7s in the quarter-final. This time Army came out strong with a try in less than 2 minutes by Ben Seru, which they quickly followed up with another when capitalising on a penalty against the Storm side to make it 12 – 0. Storm’s speed did not let them down though and they were able to put a try on the board making it 12-7. This was quickly responded to by Roko who dodged tackles from within Army’s own half to run the length of the pitch and make it 19-7 at half time.
It was still anybody’s game but Army made a statement by scoring within a minute off of the kick-off. However, Storm’s impressive attack continued to test the Army forcing them to play in their own half, which resulted in a try and an exciting match with the score tight at 26-14. Storm kept up very strong attack but with 30 seconds to play Roko sealed the match with another try resulting in a 31-14 victory to the Army.
The Army then faced Apache in the semi-finals. The Army started strong with early points on the board and good defence. The tries were a bit slow in coming despite some good opportunities due to excellent defence from both sides. Army remained ahead throughout though and went into the half with a 19-0 lead.
Army came back strong scoring within 2 minutes, but Apache was not ready to call it a day and retaliated for a brilliant chip overhead, which gave their first try about 5 minutes into the game. This led to some great momentum for Apache who went on to score a great try in the corner before the whistle blew. However, Army’s lead allowed them to move on to the final.
Army faced newcomers, Midwives, who had beaten Bath and the Carmarthen Warriors, in what was a very exciting final. It must be said that the crowd was with the newcomers, who were clearly perceived as the underdogs of the fight given Army’s two time winning record at Bournemouth Festival.
Army did not waste much time to put points on the board with Ben Seru scoring early off of a 5 metre scrum and Army continued a strong attack, which kept the Midwives playing in their own half. With two further tries the teams went into the half with the Army leading 17-0.
The restart went in Army’s favour and they were able to put points on the board within a minute, but the Midwives continued their attack and an interception in their own half led to their first points on the board. With time counting down, Midwives managed to find the gaps and scored another two tries in quick succession to score with cheers and encouragement from the crowd. With two minutes left to play the score was a close 22-19.
The Midwives had momentum and came very close to scoring that all-important try but for a great cover tackle from Ben Seru very close to the Army’s try line. Army stole possession and attacked and as time ran out Seru sealed the Army’s third consecutive Bournemouth title with a final score of 27-19.