RN Senior XV v Army Senior XV

17

RN Senior XV

30

Army Senior XV

A pulsating first half when staunch Navy defence kept the Army at arms length for most of the time gave high hopes for the second period. However the Royal Navy could not build on their two Ben Priddey tries and were unable to secure any meaningful possession as the Army gradually turned the screw and secured the match and the Babcock Trophy.

In front of a full house at Twickenham the 97th Army Navy match started at its traditional breakneck speed. Early pressure by the Navy was rewarded with a penalty but Pascoe fell short from long range. From the drop out the Army were soon on the attack and their backs looked threatening with ball in hand. However determined defence from the Royal Navy forced errors and with the scrummage holding firm the Navy were able to contain the Army’s attacks and counter with some of their own.

With Gaz Evans and Dave Fairbrother working well in the back row the Navy were able to get on the front foot and Nathan Huntley started to probe the Army’s defence. Under pressure the Army conceded a number of penalties at the breakdown and the Navy were able to force an attacking lineout deep in the Army’s twenty two metre area. Every Navy supporter knew what was coming next and in truth so did the Army. However knowing and stopping are two different matters and the Navy forwards mauled the Army back with Ben Priddey eventually squeezing over for the try. Dave Pascoe converted and the Navy had a 7-0 lead.

Shortly after the restart the Army were in further trouble when their scrum half, Chennell was sent to the sin bin for a swinging arm. Dave Pascoe and his team must have been looking to capitalise but it was the Army who raised their game and scored a deserved try through Budgen which Dixon converted. Shortly afterwards Budgie was lucky not to see yellow himself, conceding a cynical penalty 5m out. However the Navy chose not to kick the goal and from the lineout Ben Priddey was again driven over for his second try. With the conversion missed the Navy had 12-7 lead which through excellent defence they maintained until half time. Indeed they nearly extended their lead with seconds to go but were stopped just short after a promising attack wide out by Priddey and Mason.

The start of the second half was always going to be critical and it was the Army who scored first through a penalty in front of the posts, following pressure at the breakdown. They then took the lead when a miss tackle on Jope allowed the Army to get behind the defence on the Navy’s left flank. Quick ball was moved wide for Lennox to score wide out right and the Army were in the lead for the first time. The conversion from Dixon made it 17-12.

Still the Royal Navy was unable to get their hands on the ball and they had to defend as wave after wave of Army attacks was launched at them. The defence was holding but only by its finger nails when Rokodugni game off his wing to take a midfield ball. Marsh Cormack was high with the tackle and the Navy had to defend for ten minutes with fourteen. The Dangerous tackle conceded three immediate points and whilst Marsh was off the field a further penalty and a Rokodugni try extended the lead to a match winning 30-12.

With the replacements coming on and the Navy back up to full complement they tried every thing to get back into the game but still lacked possession when it mattered. To their credit they still looked to take every opportunity that came their way with Jon Humphrey looking particularly threatening. It was from one of his breaks that the Navy managed to force another attacking lineout from which Ben Priddey scored his third. It was the least the Royal Navy deserved but overall the Army with worthy winners 30-17 and retain the Babcock Trophy for another year.

In a game that Dave Pascoe was replaced by Johnny Stephen have we seen the changing of the guard? Matt Harvey, Dave Fairbrother and Josh Terry all made important contributions as did Toots Vakalutukali and Harry Collins from the bench. We know the challenge remains has tough as ever but that what makes sport great. The Navy supporters were given plenty to cheer about from a side that gave their all but need to galvanise themselves ready for 2015 and another Twickenham sell out in support of Service rugby.

Royal Navy: K Mason +*, B Priddey *, J Terry *, M Harvey *, M Cormack *, D Fairbrother *, D Taylor *, G Evans *, D Pascoe * (C), N Huntley *, E Myers *, D Sleeman *, M Tichias *, J Fleckney *, J Humphrey * Reps: H Collins +*, M Owen *, T Cowley *, S Laird *, R Vakalutukali *, J Stephen *, S Davies *

British Army: R Reeves, M Dwyer (C), C Budgen, D Ball, W Jones, R Lennox, C Mundy, L Jope, T Chennell, J Prasad, S Rokodugni, G Wessels, T Hiscock, S Speight, J Dixon Reps: P Austin, N Titchard-Jones, M Koroiyadi, J Nayacavou, J Read, P Nacamavuto, T Tamatawale

Images by Alligin Photography / © Geraint Ashton Jones © Lee Crabb