Aldershot was the venue as the Army took on Ince Rose Bridge in the third round of the Challenge Cup as both sides looked to progress on the long road to Wembley.
The Army had already taken out two Conference League One sides in this years competition, with victories over Oulton and Skirlaugh. Ince Rose Bridge had beaten East Hull ARLFC and the Milford Marlins on their voyage so far.
It had been a long five hour trip south for the side from Wigan, and after a slightly delayed kick-off the game got underway at just after two-thirty.
It took little time for the Army to take control of the game and after two good chances when the ball went to ground, Jefeti Vakalalabure found a small overlap to go over in the corner. Kieran Roche was unable to add the extras from the touchline. With eight on the clock the Army were 4-0 ahead.
Ince struck back on sixteen thanks to Dan Dainty as the ball was moved right into Dainty’s hands before the centre suan out of two tackles to score ground the ball over the line. Daniel Cassidy added the two to put the visitors into the lead.
The Army did well to defend back-to-back goal line drop outs and when they forced an error they went downfield and earned themselves a penalty. Roche called for the kicking tee but couldn’t make the penalty goal.
On thirty-two Cassidy added Ince Rose Bridge’s second of the afternoon, taking a poor pass above his head and stepping out of a tackle to score two metres in from the right corner. Cassidy tagged on his own conversion from the touchline for a 12-4 lead.
With seconds remaining Roche missed a penalty goal into a strong wind and the Army went into the break trailing by eight points. It was a compeitive first half with little to choose between the two sides. The only difference was that Ince Rose Bridge took their chances but the British Army didn’t.
The Army had the wind advantage in the second half. An early error gave the Army a great opportunity and as the ball was moved down the line Ura Naulusala was on hand to spin out of two tackles and get the ball down. Roche added the conversion for 10-12.
Declan Baines could have given the home side the lead on fifty-one but bounced the ball in the act of scoring, under the sticks, as he chased a grubber kick.
On fifty-three Naulusala scored an ninety metre solo try, after diffusing a cross-field kick, to score under the sticks and snatch the lead for the Army. The Ince Rose Bridge players had no chance of catching the speedy winger and when Roche added the goal the Army were 16-12 ahead.
Vakalabure added his second three minutes later, fending off the defensive efforts of the visitors, to improve the ange and ground under the uprights. Roche kicked his third goal for 22-12.
On sixty-three Jamie Laing added the fifth Army try of the afternoon after he was given a walk in try by Naulusala to take the score to 28-12 with Roche kicking his fourth of the afternoon.
Brad Smith reduced the arrears with thirteen minutes left was he took a Morrison offload to score by the posts. Cassidy added the conversion for 28-18 but it was too little, too late, for the visitors.
Ben O’Connell reacted quickest to a Roche grubber on seventy to get his hand on the ball in the goal area to score. Roche added the conversion for a 34-18, the wind making all of the difference in the second half.
The tries were coming thick and fast in the closing stages as Hughes went in for Ince Rose Bridge. Cassidy was unable to convert, the side from Wigan were 22-34 behind but with just a couple of minutes remaining. But they couldn’t get any closer.
The British Army has made the fourth round of the Challenge Cup for the first time in their history and are now in the draw with the Championship clubs with the promise of a big day the next time out. There was little between the sides in the first half but in the second they used the wind to their advantage and kicked on brilliantly to take the win.
British Army: Roche (5G), Vakalalabure (2T), Laing (T), Holmes, Naulusala (2T), O’Connell (T), Baines, Watkin, Scott, Hicken, Toms, Coleman, McBride. Subs: Hoyle, Harrison, Beevor, Zuger
Ince Rose Bridge: Cassidy (T, 3G), Parr, Malone, Dainty (T), Hughes (T), Eccleston, Meaden C, Cunningham, Meaden M, Collier, Valentine P, Valentine R, Smith (T). Subs: Shaw, Sanby, Lomax, Morrison.
Referee: Nick Bennett.