Rugby Union

Tough Test: UKAF Team Beat French To Reach IDRC Final

The UK Armed Forces rugby union side have made it to the final of the International Defence Rugby Competition (IDRC) with a 39-12 win over the French military in Japan.

What turned out to be an ill-disciplined affair started with a minute-long silence, both teams mourning the loss of the RAF rugby league fullback, SAC Scott Stevenson, who died in hospital this week following injuries sustained in an Inter Services fixture against the Army.

The beginning of the game saw several attacks nullified before the British players became the first to alter the scoreboard.

The French backs showed their hand in defence, drawn into a breakdown, only to watch the ball sail quickly through the UKAF hands - full-back Craig Duncan with the finish, converted by Lance Corporal James Dixon.

Dixon was off-target for a penalty two minutes later, though, the French marching the UKAF men back to their own 22-metre line and eventually scoring.

Play continued in UKAF territory, as the contest became increasingly heated.

Two in-game fights over the course of the game eventually saw Gareth Rees and French Lock Jean Baptiste Le Meur sin-binned for ten minutes.

UKAF Captain Jamie Miller spoke of the physical contest after the game: "We knew they were going to come flying at us from the first whistle... they didn't disappoint." 

The first scuffle took place as the French crossed the line, tensions making the next try all the more important.

The UK Armed Forces side regained their composure and opted to play a game of inches - the forwards creeping toward the try line - a final phase seeing Gareth Smith over the line. Another Dixon conversion set the score at 12-5.

France fly-half Flavio Iannuso commanded his side back into the game, before responding with some beautiful footwork and scoring under the posts. Diago Giradeau did not miss the conversion, leaving the score level at 12-12.

Watch: The IDRC semi-final back in full with commentary from Jon Knighton.

Dixon had kicked UKAF to a narrow lead before the second half, which saw the return of Rees from the stands.

The refreshed player spearheaded a fresh approach fro the forwards, running hard lines around the ruck and defeating their opposition in close-quarters. Reece scored himself, Stu Philpott adding a carbon-copy., with the score now 32-12.

Dixon enjoyed playing on the front foot in the Camp Asaka heat, praising the stamina of the whole squad, from forwards to waterboys: "It was fitness that showed here, fair play to every one of them, 1 to 23, even the boys on the touchline - the water was on straight away."

The backs sealed the result, a cross-field kick saw Brad Janes scramble over, ending the game at 39-12. 

UKAF Head Coach, Staff Sergeant Lee Soper, was proud of his win after the occasion marking a tragic loss was almost marred by 'negative energy':

"I'm not going to say they were dirty...the officials really didn't get a grip of all the foul play."

UKAF will meet Fiji in the final on Monday 23 September, with a few injuries to assess within the squad.

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