Under strength Navy side put on great show
RN Senior XV
Army Senior XV
In the glorious sunshine at Twickenham the 101st encounter between the Royal Navy Rugby Union and the Army Rugby Union went the way of the Army. After the early dismissal of the Navy flanker, Sam Matavesi, the under strength Navy team put in a valiant performance losing out 22 - 14 to their Army colleagues.
The game started brightly for the Royal Navy Rugby Union. Several probing attacks into Army territory, including a great run by scrum half Gareth Rees, were repelled. But the team in the red shirts clearly felt under pressure conceding a penalty which the skilled kicking boot of full back Jon Humphrey slotted between the posts for the Royal Navy team to take the lead. From the restart the dark blues, keen to capitalise on their early points, again pushed into the Army half. A speculative kick up the field was deflected into touch and the Navy team had worked their way inside the opposition 22 with the throw in at the lineout. Disappointingly, the Army stole the ball but it wasn’t long before the Navy regained possession. Several pick and gos from the Navy upped the pressure on the Army who once again conceded a penalty which Jon Humphrey kicked to extend the Navy lead 0 – 6.
With less than 15 minutes played the Navy supporters were daring to hope this this might be the year when the Royal Navy could beat the Army. Responding to the Navy dominance the Army came back, moving into the Navy half, working through the phases. Now it was the Navy’s turn to defend hard; which they did. However the resulting interaction between the forwards increased the aggression levels and the result was some ill-discipline by both sides. The RFU referee Nigel Wrigglesworth took his time to review the action using the TMO and it was to the greatest disappointment of the Royal Navy when No 6, Sam Matavesi, was shown a red card. The first quarter was not yet complete and although the Navy had a narrow lead they knew that it would be an almost impossible task to maintain it for the remainder of the match.
Unsurprisingly the Army were able to take advantage of the overmatch, and despite almost ten minutes of strong defence, the Army No 13 Leatham went over on the left wing for the first try of the match, Army 5 – Royal Navy 6. Determined not to be dominated, the Royal Navy fought back, taking the game to the Army. Once again the Army conceded a penalty and Jon Humphrey made it three from three in the thirtieth minute for the Royal Navy to push ahead 5 – 9.
Then the passage of play changed, going the way of the Army. Two tries in quick succession, scored by the right wing, Bulumakau, and No 6 Miller, were both converted by team captain, fly half, Dixon, for the Army to take a commanding lead 19 – 9 as the half time whistle blew.
The team talk during the break clearly worked and the Royal Navy team returned to the pitch with a definite strategy on how to deal with being a player down. Some fresh legs helped, with Greg Welling coming on for Jon Humphrey, Scotsman Matt Harvey replacing Scott Makepeace and Sam Davies replacing Greg Loydall. The third quarter was a dead heat, until the Navy conceded a penalty and Dixon added another 3 points to his team’s score, Army 22 – 9 Royal Navy.
Cory Moore and Ratu Vakalutukali came to the rescue, replacing Gareth Rees and David Fairbrother who had both been working at an exceptionally high rate. A flurry of Navy activity in the Army danger zone followed. A series of three no tries were awarded by the referee as both Hayler and Myers appeared to cross the line. Finally replacement Vakalutukali thundered over for the Navy’s first and only try of the game. It was not converted and the Navy were still two tries short of the win, Army 22 – 14 Navy. It was hard to tell how much time there was left to play as a power failure throughout the stadium resulted in a frozen scoreboard and put the big screens out of action.
When the referee blew his whistle for the final time the Army had secured the win, but the Royal Navy players could all hold their heads up high, secure in the knowledge that that had upped their game and had managed to ensure a highly competitive and thrilling match of rugby, despite the heat, and being a player down for over 60 minutes.
Congratulations to the Army on winning the Babcock trophy 2018. The Royal Navy are already looking forward to the re-match on Saturday 4th May 2019!
Team list: 1. CSgt Gareth Evans, 2. LPT Ben Priddey (team captain), 3. Mne Robert Wilson, 4. Musc Edd Pascoe, 5. AET Scott Makepeace, 6. Logs(SC) Sam Matavesi, 7. LCpl Jarrard Hayler, 8. Cpl David Fairbrother, 9. AB(MW) Gareth Rees, 10. Mne Nathan Huntley, 11. AB(D) Rhys Dimmock-Williams, 12. AET Greg Loydall, 13. Mne Seta Raumakita, 14. ET(WE) Eldon Myers, 15. AET Jon Humphrey Replacements (*not used) 16. LCpl Aaron Wilman*, 17. AET Chris Warner*, 18. AB(CIS)(SM) Matt Harvey, 19. Cpl Ben Fox*, 20. Mne Ratu Vakalutukali, 21. NA(AH) Cory Moore, 22. ET(ME) Sam Davies, 23. Mne Greg Welling
Images: Royal Navy Rugby Union © Keith Woodland and John Walton