Navy Rugby Falls Short but Cross the Whitewash against British Army

13 May 2023

16:45 @ Twickenham Stadium

Senior Women XV


Army Women

The Army Women have been crowned champions of the 2023 Inter Service competition, after a one-sided victory over the Royal Navy at Twickenham Stadium. Bethan Dainton shone with four tries for the Army, and Sale Sharks star Courtney Pursglove ran in a hat-trick and kicked an unobtainable deficit against the Navy for a 67-5 final score. The Army Women were looking for revenge, after the Navy Men lifted the Babcock Trophy earlier in the afternoon. The Army Women started the first half as if they were fired out of a cannon, as they scored two tries within the first 10 minutes of the match.

The Navy re-started the match, but were soon back underneath their goalposts. The Army gathered the kick-off, and played back-rower Bethan Dainton through a gap in the defence. An impressive solo try was capped-off by Pursglove’s conversion, and a 12-0 lead.

After piling on heavy pressure in the Navy’s 22, the Army strung the ball neatly through the hands, and out wide to Courtney Pursglove. The flying winger found space to go over in the corner. The Navy fired back, and they forced a change in the momentum at Twickenham. After pinning the Army back in their corner for dominant spell, the Navy attempted a rolling maul but it was halted just short of the line. The sailors maintained the pressure, and drove closer to the line with short picks.

Back-rower Olivia Critchley-Peddle gained the all important yards for a milestone Navy try. This was the history making try that the Navy had hoped for, as it marks the first ever try scored at Twickenham by a Navy Women’s rugby player. Despite these positive signs from the Navy, the Army reclaimed control and closed out the first half with three unanswered tries. Three minutes after the Navy’s try, the Army responded through left-winger Charlotte Tweddle, who showed great awareness to collect a high pass, and finish strongly with a burst of pace along the left touchline.

Courtney Pursglove grabbed her brace, with an impressive arching run around the outside of the Navy defenders. Pursglove showed a strong fend to the last Navy tackle attempt, before grounding the ball to score. Flanker Bethan Dainton closed out the first half with her second try of the game, as she picked up the ball in midfield, and pinned her ears back with ‘I’ll do it myself attitude’. Pursglove’s conversion sent the two sets of servicewomen off for half time at 29-5.

The one-sided try-scoring continued into the second half, with Dainton securing her hat-trick one minute after the re-start. The back-rower executed a neat fend and step combination, before charging away across the Twickenham grass to score. Three minutes later full-back Louise Dodd extended the Army’s points tally, as she reaped the plaudits of a well-hit supporting line. Pursglove’s conversion built a 41-5 lead after 44 minutes.

Despite the score-line, the Navy Women showed great resilience and pride when representing their service. Captain Rose Dixon led her side from the front, as they continued to make the afternoon a physical challenge for the Army.

After a scoreless 16 minutes showcased the defensive tenacity of the Navy, the Army found a way through, as Courtney Pursglove sealed her hat-trick. The Sale Sharks and England 7s star added to her highlight reel, as she broke free of two Navy tackle attempts, and in to score along her fabled right touchline. Pursglove added the extras from the tee, and took her personal points tally up to 23.

The Army hit top gear, and ran out a further three tries, in the final 10 minutes at Twickenham Stadium. Replacement back Hannah Gilmour will take fond memories from this match, as she came off-the-bench to score the Army’s ninth try of the afternoon. Leeds Rhino and for Harlequin Bethan Dainton then grabbed her fourth try of the game as the Army struck for their tenth.

The match ended with Army Captain Jade Mullen scoring the Army’s eleventh and final try of the match, and wrapped up the day with a ‘captain’s contribution.’ Pursglove’s conversion closed out the day’s points-scoring, for a resounding victory for the Army.

Navy Women’s Captain Rose Dixon highlighted the significance of Critchly-Peddle’s try, in the post-match reaction. Women’s rugby in the Navy have taken their first few steps, in progressing their ‘five year plan’.

“...Incredible! And we were really going to thrive off of that now, you know. I don’t know the last time that we put a try past the army off the top of my head. So that’s something that we’re going to take forward and really build on and there’s so much excitement around that.”

“We get better year on year. And that’s clear to see with scores throughout the services. So, you know, what they say, it is a five year plan and we’re hitting all the goals that we want to hit. So obviously disappointed not to come away with a win today. But also really proud of the girls, for hitting the goals and exceeding my expectations.”

Navy Women’s Head Coach Sam Cuff echoed his Captain’s comments, in how the Navy Women’s side are taking strides in the right direction.

“Well, I think this year can be considered a small step forward from last year. We bought quite a few new girls into the squad, there’s a lot of young girls in the squad. And we’ve got some girls we couldn’t select because they were on training courses or on ship, and we couldn’t get them away.

“So I think all of that kind of coming together and building for next season, I think if they hit the ground running from kind of September, October onwards, they’ll really build quickly and I think it will be a closer game next year."

Royal Navy Rugby Women: 15. LPT ERI Suz Badger 14. Bug Bronagh Gibb 13. ET Sian McLaughlin 12. LH Rose Dixon (C) 11. LT Abigail Ashby 10. PO Samantha Alderson 9. SLt Rhian Perry 1. Mid Rosie Staples 2. SLt Rebecca Addis 3. AET Lucy Honeybell 4. Wtr Olivia Fifita 5. AH Yvonne Mealy 6. Lt Olivia Critchly-Peddle 7. QARRNS-Nursing Rowan Sinclair 8. AWW Laika Swain

Replacements: 16. LDN Keira Gavan 17. ETME Ellen Bloxham 18. ETWE Gemma Flowers 19. ETME Heather Addison-Prout 20. ETWE(CIS) Elona Bythell 21. AB Evangeline Horne 22. Surg Lt Cdr Emma Maxwell 23. Wtr Daisy Lumsden.

Words by Tom Samson

Images by Alligin Photography