RAF Premiership Rugby star Corporal Josh McNally has played his first game in four and half months after undergoing surgery to correct a hole in his heart.
McNally played 60 minutes for the Air Force, albeit in a losing cause as the light blues were defeated 33-17 by Richmond Vikings.
The 27-year-old London Irish second row, who underwent surgery in October, told Forces Network:
"I feel alright, a bit rusty but it's been a long time... [It was] just good to get out there, especially in a light blue shirt."
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Speaking about his journey over the past few months, he said:
"[It was] a bit of a shock but after playing Saracens [I] had a bit of a weird turn [and] ended up having a minor stroke.
"[It] turned out to be a hole in the heart, which got corrected. It's been a long rehab process of getting my heart back to normal.
"I've come off some blood-thinning drugs, which I was on for three months and I've been doing contact now for the last three weeks. It's just good to get a run-out tonight [after what's] been a long, crazy four and a half months.
McNally said he at first feared he could lose both his rugby and forces careers, leaving him a relieved man:
"It's been a good bullet dodged... Now everything's back to normal [though so] I can crack on as hard as I was before."
He'll now look towards this year's Inter-Services, which starts when the RAF players take on the Army at RAF Halton on April 11.
On the field on Wednesday, they were up against it straight away after receiving a yellow card just two minutes after kick-off.
Lee Queeley was sin-binned for a high tackle, leaving his side to run damage control for 10 minutes.
They were, however, awarded a penalty but Ross McDougall missed in swirly conditions.
After 15 minutes Richmond's Martin Freeman powered through three tackles to cross the line, with Matt Harrison adding the extras for an early lead.
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But a welcome score for the Air Force followed after a clever kick was recycled and McNally crashed over from close range.
Another yellow for a late tackle put Richmond down to 14 men and the visitors took full advantage with a big drive off the line-out and a try in the corner - captain Stu Philpott at the bottom of the pile.
Tempers flared as the RAF went ahead for the first time, pushing the score to 10-7.
The military side kept pushing forward, running some great angles. They were halted illegally on the line, Ollie Clough was shown a yellow and again the RAF capitalised.
Another try for captain Philpott, converted by McDougall, meant it was a 10-point gap at the break.
Unfortunately for the forces men, the second half didn't quite follow the same plan as the first.
Richmond were clearly in rambunctious mood after their big win...
The Air Force will rue their poor discipline which allowed Richmond to score four tries.
First up, speedster Rhodri Adamson notched a try and conversion, then there was a penalty try awarded after a scrum in front of the posts.
Then, even the bounce of the ball seemed to go against the light blues when Adamson's kick was gathered nicely by Freeman, who ran it home.
Finally, driving play from Richmond and a break off the back meant another easy dive over for the home side - the final score 33-17 to the Vikings.
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