Navy Unable to Hold Army Surge Tide
Royal Navy Senior XV
Army Senior XV
The loss to the Royal Air Force was a deep dent to Army Rugby pride and there was always going to be a response. If the Royal Navy were able to hold them early on then perhaps the demons that haunted the Army at Aldershot might return. But an Army side playing without pressure is a dangerous foe and too often Navy ill discipline allowed the Army to escape from their goal line. Once they were on the front foot they posed too many questions for a Navy defence regularly facing a lack of numbers due to the Army’s multi phase attacks.
The 98th Army Navy game started with palpable tension in the sell out stadium. 81,116 passionate supporters were creating a fantastic atmosphere but for the sides they were struggling to get continuity as both defences were pumped up. An early penalty from Owain Davies for the Army was cancelled out by Jon Humprey before two more penalties to the Army eased them 9-3 ahead. Again this season the Navy lost a man as the television match official confirmed obstruction by Dave Fairbrother on the Army’s left wing, Jonasa Bulumukau and though during the ten minute period they gamely tried to take the game to the Army the extra work load on the fourteen players took its toll.
Jack Prasad was enjoying the extra room afforded him and beginning to open up the Navy defence. Though the Navy’s scramble defence forced a couple of errors to prevent good opportunities becoming scores they eventually had to concede the opening try scored by Army lock William Jones. At 14-3 the Royal Navy knew they had to score next and to their credit the forwards lifted their game. From a lineout 22m out they mauled strongly and forced the penalty. Ben Priddey decided to spurn the kick at goal and the confidence he had in his forwards was borne out when they again drove the Army back with a cohesive maul. The TMO was called upon and it was decided that Josh Terry was at the bottom of the pile of players for the Navy try. Jon Humphrey landed a nerveless kick and the Navy were back in the game although still 14-3 behind.
The score was the last piece of Navy pressure of the half as the Army came straight back at them with a vengeance. Gradually as the game was wearing on more of the fifty-fifty challenges were going the Army’s way as they began to boss the breakdown. On a couple of occasions a second try looked certain but for heroic Navy defence. Just as they looked to have survived until half time the Army created an opening for their mobile lock, Jones, to gallop in for his second try. 21-10 at half time and the Navy new they had to turn the tide in the second half.
Unfortunately the second half was a case of the Army growing in ascendancy as the game wore on. An early exchange of penalties was the prelude to an excellent individual try from England winger Semesa Rokoduguni. However the Army’s next try, from man of the match Bulumukau was a fluent team effort finished off by Jonasa easing past Humphrey in the corner. At 36-13 the game was won even though there was 15 minutes or so left.
Changes, some tactical, some through necessity disrupted the flow of the game. Josh Terry and Kye Beasley both had blood injuries whilst Marsh Cormack was forced off following a blow to the head. Having lost their other lock Tom Cowley earlier on this forced a considerable reorganisation of the Navy pack but did bring Jarrard Hayler on for his first cap.
The character of the Royal Navy team continued to shine through as they enjoyed some continuity of possession. With possession they were able to exert some pressure and eventually from another close lineout Ben Priddey popped out of the side of the maul for the try. Tom Davies missed the kick at goal and the gap had reduced to 36-18. From the restart the Army controlled possession and ran the clock down until the referee blew for No Side. The Army had restored some pride but for the Navy the final whistle brought the curtain down on a long season.
The date for the 2016 Army v Navy match is 30th April 2016. Tickets will go on sale in November 2015.
Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones & © Mark Andrews