The Saints’ power and persistence ultimately proved too much for a gritty British Army side in front of a good Gardens crowd for the Mobbs Memorial Match.
While three first half tries had them ahead, an Army interception and a penalty meant the hosts wouldn’t stretch to a two-score lead until the hour, despite a sustained assault on the visitors’ line.
Saints made good ground early on thanks to some strong running from flanker Michael Paterson to take them inside the Army half. Tom Collins then kicked a superb touch finder to put the Army’s defence under pressure at the line out.
With Saints back on the attack shortly after, winger Collins found some space on the left wing but was brought down 5m metres short of the line. This began a period of pressure from the home side however, with lineouts and driving mauls just metres from the Army try line. Their efforts were rewarded with a try for flanker Lewis Ludlam to give Saints an early lead.
The Army responded well to conceding an early try and attacked strongly from the restart, making their way up to the Saints 22. A well worked move found space on the right and winger Chris Leathem broke through the Saints defence, only for his effort to be disallowed for a knock on. The referee was playing advantage however, and the resulting penalty was successful from fly half James Dixon.
In a fast moving game, it was then the Saints’ turn to show their attacking intent with a great run from winger Howard Packman taking them back inside the Army half.
However, when a Rory Hutchinson offload went loose, Army number 8 Ifremi Boladau was perfectly placed to scoop up the ball in the middle of park, with centre Gerhard Wessels on his shoulder. Leathem was in support to eventually cross for a try and the conversion from fly half James Dixon gave the Army a 10-5 lead with 18 minutes on the clock.
With play back under way from the restart, Collins made a blistering run in the midfield before offloading to full back George Furbank who took play inside the Army 22. A penalty was awarded and Saints showed real ambition by kicking for touch as opposed to taking the points. Their decision was vindicated when second row Jordan Onojaife powered over from short range, James Grayson adding the extras from the tee to edge his side back ahead.
The young Saints continued to threaten the Army’s defence and it wasn’t long before they were back on the score board thanks to a try from prop Gareth Denman. He made no mistake as he found himself in unfamiliar territory on the right wing to score Saints’ third try of the evening. The build up to the try saw Grayson show off his silky handling skills with a slick pass through his legs.
With the second half underway, Saints dominated play through their scrum and driving lineout and while Fraser Dingwall couldn’t quite cling onto a fizzed offload in the corner, they stuck at their task.
Saints’ fourth try eventually came in the 57th minute, with Sion Bennett making the most of a strong scrum to crash over, Grayson again making it a seven-pointer and stretching the lead to 24-10.
And that’s the way it remained, despite Saints showing good attacking intent in the final quarter. Even with Noxy Laqekoro briefly in the bin, the Army dug in and a series of penalties took them all the way up to the Saints’ five-metre line.
While they were unable to capitalise on their field position, it was a parting reminder of their spirit in a well contested evening and left them on the front foot ahead of their Babcock Trophy clash against the Royal Navy at Twickenham on 30th April.
SAINTS Furbank; Packman, Hutchinson, Williams, Collins; Grayson, Duschene; E Waller, Fish, Denman, Moon, Onojaife, Paterson (capt), Ludlam, Bennett
Rayment, Beesley, Parkins, Hobbs-Awoyemi, Cardall, Harrison, Emery, Dingwall, Strachan
BRITISH ARMY Davies; Leatham, O’Reilly, Wessels, Watkins; Dixon, Shaw; R Reeves, Dwyer, Budgen, Llewellyn, Whittaker, Lennox (capt), Dawson, Boladau
Austin, Smith, Bates, Koroiyadi, Vunivesilevu, Farrell, Reeves, Laqekoro