By Gloucester Roundhead
All Golds 6 Royal Air Force 68
A sunkissed evening, impeccably presented playing area, the rolling hills of Gloucestershire and an expectant crowd converged to provide the stunning backdrop to this historic encounter.
Whereas the All Golds fielded an experimental line up of 24 players including a number who have had limited game time so far this season the Royal Air Force, who had been in camp from the beginning of the week, came with only one target in mind: a strike of professional precision.
The pattern for the match was set in the early minutes when Ben Harley sent Josh Williams over through a fragile All Golds’ defence. He repeated the dose himself a few minutes later. Both touchdowns were converted by Nick Arnell.
The home side weathered the early storm and finally secured good field position in opposition territory. This paid dividends when Paul Bolger shrugged off RAF defenders to register his debut try for the Golden Fern. Dean Cooper tacked on the extras. However this was to be cold comfort for the locals as a series of handling errors, indiscipline and a superb display of powerful and skilful handling and running by the visitors saw them score a quartet of tries before the half time break via Andy Webster, Paul Williams with two and thus completing a fine hat trick and Cheltenham based Paul Bartlett. Nick Arnell continued in the same successful vein and turned all four scores into six pointers. The opening stanza closed with the men in blue in the ascendancy by 6 – 36.
Both sides stuck to their philosophy with the All Golds continuing to ring the changes and the Royal Air Force focussing on building momentum for some very stern tests ahead as they look towards the annual clashes with the Royal Navy and the British Army.
The scoreboard was soon in action again as Nathan Barker and Kristian Burns crossed the All Golds’ line with Nick Arnell completing his kicking duties for the night with a further conversion. Nonetheless there were positive signs for the home side with returning former League 1 All Gold Scott Claridge having an excellent game and quite a number of other wearers of the black shirt making telling contributions notably Tom Gaffney.
The irony of the next two Royal Air Force tries was not lost on the initiated as it was the most aptly named Rob Baskerville who tore over for a brace – a most remarkable coincidence. In between the young All Golds battled away and threatened to respond on a number of occasions but were thwarted by a combination of resilient military defence and – as they tired – a rising number of handling errors. Proceedings came to an inevitable conclusion as the Royal Air Force continued to thrill the spectators with a cluster of well executed moves that portrayed the sport of Rugby League in an excellent light. They added further points courtesy of Benedict Mellor and Kev Raqio. Nathan Barker converted both.
All Golds’ head coach Marcus Brown who himself played with distinction was philosophical in his assessment:
“The RAF are a top team.They were outstanding and professional both on and off the field. The fixture was a friendly in which we needed to see some boys playing in and to be honest it was really tough for some of the new boys. We had a number of injuries and a lot of boys who played a large chunk of the tough game on Saturday against Cardiff.”
Man of the Match for the All Golds was Joe Collins and for the Royal Air Force their captain Benedict Mellor.