Royal Navy denies Army 9th successive win at Twickenham
A record crowd of over 56,000 witnessed a game of passion, commitment and courage at Twickenham on Saturday 1st May. The Royal Navy faced an experienced Army team, littered with International and Premiership players, looking to be crowned Inter Services Champions for the 9th successive year. The scene was set for a thrilling clash that would see the Royal Navy aiming to change the Army motto ‘Reds on the March'. Indeed, the swathes of red shirts in the crowd were to be disappointed as the Royal Navy overcame a 15 -3 half time deficit to beat the Army in the final minutes of an enthralling match, by 24 points to 22.
The Army kicked off and Navy wing and England 7s International Josh Drauniniu (HMNB Portsmouth) collected the high ball to launch the first Navy attack, clearly signalling their intent. With the Army and Navy sides trading kicks and attacking moves, it was almost 15 minutes of play before the Army took the first points through a penalty for offside. Army lead: 3 - 0. Only 5 minutes later, a penalty for ‘entering from the side' of a ruck put the Navy in a scoring position. Skipper Dave Pascoe (RNAS Culdrose) converted the penalty to draw the sides level.
With only 14 minutes of the first half remaining, the Army number 10, Fijian International Jack Prasad, showed his class and dummied the Navy's defence to cross the line for the first try of the afternoon (converted by Cummings); Army lead 10 - 3. The Army's second try came from a well-worked move across the back line to put Cummings over (try unconverted). Despite some good attacking moves by the Navy, the score remained 15 - 3 to the Army at half time.
The second half started with both sides keen to build momentum and get the best possible attacking positions. Some strong Naval defence kept the Army attacks at bay and 10 minutes into the second half the Army conceded a penalty at the breakdown. Dave Pascoe made no mistakes and kicked the Navy to within 9 points of the Army, 15 - 6. The Army's third try came from a scrum 10 metres from the Navy's line. With the scrum almost wheeled beyond ninety degrees, the Army scrum half found Prasad who quickly released the ball to centre Nacamavuto. His strong angled run took him over for the try, converted by Cummings. The Army's lead 22 - 6 looked unassailable at this point. But the Navy team stuck to the task and a penalty, again for side entry by the Army, gave Pascoe another shot at goal. The score then stood at 22 - 9 with 20 minutes to go. Another penalty for obstruction, which resulted in a yellow card for Army prop Chris Budgen, allowed Pascoe to pull back 3 more points.
The Navy team looked confident and calm under increasing time pressure. Further driving play caused major confusion in the Army defence and when replacement lock David Bates cynically obstructed a Navy blindside move, he joined Budgen in a now over-crowded Army sin bin. From the rsultant penalty, the Navy opted to kick for touch. Despite a short delay, Navy replacement hooker Ben Priddey (RNAS Culdrose) maintained his composure and found his Culdrose colleague Marsh Cormack with his throw. A strong driving maul allowed Ben to spin off and cross for the Navy's first try. Pascoe converted to pull the score back to 22 - 19. The crowd collectively held its breath as the Army missed a penalty kick; the Navy was still in with a chance to win with only minutes remaining on the clock!
The hero of the hour was Gareth Evans (UKLFCSG), the Navy tight head prop, who eluded a number of Army defenders to cross the line in the final 2 minutes of the match. The referee was unsighted and called on the TMO to make the final decision; technical problems made the wait even more agonising as both Navy and Army supporters were on edge of their seats. Finally the decision was announced - a try to the Navy, edging them into a 2 point lead.
From the re-start the Army made every effort to regain possession in a last ditch attempt to steal the win. A well-drilled Navy team secured the ball and as the crowd counted down the final 10 seconds, skipper Dave Pascoe stood strong against the advancing wave of red shirts. The Navy number 10, Wayne 'Cowboy' John, calmly kicked the ball into touch to guarantee a well-deserved Naval victory. And so the Army winning streak came to an end. The final score was a well-deserved 24 - 22 to the Royal Navy.
Putting all emotion aside, this was a consummate team performance from the men in dark blue. They played as a cohesive unit throughout, clearly reaping the benefits of their intensive training camp at HMS Nelson. This winning squad was brought together from across the Naval service, with a common desire to place the Royal Navy at the top of Services rugby. This desire was enhanced in the training camp that witnessed the squad not only grow as players, but also as a team. The trust, determination and camaraderie was evident not only on Saturday but throughout the season.
The Royal Navy's Director of Rugby Lt Cdr Geraint Ashton Jones was magnanimous in victory and praised the performance of his squad, saying ‘all the hard work and preparation has paid off, but none of this would have been possible without the support from the whole of the Naval Service, which has been truly outstanding'.
Royal Navy: Mne Rob Lloyd (42 Cdo RM); LAET Andy Vance (HMS Nelson) (rep Mne Jonny Stephen (CTCRM) - 77 min); LCpl Calum Macrae (CTCRM), (rep Mne Scott Llewellyn (Cdo Log Regt RM) - 60 min); ET(ME) Dale Sleeman (HMS Cumberland) 57 min); AB Logs (CS) Josh Drauniniu (HMNB Portsmouth); POET(WE) Wayne John (HMS Liverpool); POAET Dave Pascoe (Capt) (RNAS Culdrose); NA(AH) Kyle Mason (RNAS Culdrose) (rep AB(WS) Marc Roberts (HMS Bulwark) - 58 min); POA(AH) Jan Laity (RNAS Culdrose) (rep NA(AH) Ben Priddey (RNAS Culdrose) - 49min); Cpl Gareth Evans (UKLFCSG); Capt Stuart McLaren (RMR Bristol) (rep AB(Sea) Will Cairns (COMPORFLOT) - 55 min); LAET Marsh Cormack (RNAS Culdrose); Mne Mike Egglestone (45 Cdo RM) (rep Mne Kieran Morton (UKLFCSG) - 58 min); Cpl Greg Barden (RM Poole) (rep POPT Les Dennis (HMS Nelson) - 76 min); Cpl Damien Chambers (UKLFCSG).
Although the Senior XV match was the main event for most, the morning matches at Kneller Hall attracted large crowds of enthusiastic supporters. The Royal Navy Women and Veterans took on their Army opponents in two very competitive and closely contested matches. The Navy Women performed above all expectations, losing by only 25 - 11, the smallest ever winning margin for the Army. This placed the RN Women as Runners-Up in the Inter Services Championship this year. The Veterans' competition, already won by the RAF, meant that both the Navy and Army sides were playing for pride. Again, this was a very close and competitive match that saw the Army run out eventual winners 28 - 19.
The Cossack Sword, awarded to the RNRU Player of the Year, for ‘Ground Gained and Held', was presented to lock forward LAET Marsh Cormack (RNAS Culdrose). ET(ME) Dale Sleeman (HMS Cumberland) was recognised as the player who best epitomised the Navy Rugby ethos ‘Proud Heritage - Exciting Future.'
The RNRU award for 'Support to Navy Rugby, the ‘Soapy Watson Memorial Trophy' was awarded to Mr Dave Wakefield (HMS Collingwood).
The RN Women's Player of the Inter Services, awarded the ‘Roger Sherratt Trophy', was AB(CIS) Sarah Simms (HMS Ark Royal).
RN Skipper, Petty Officer Dave Pascoe, was winning his 22nd Navy Cap, which makes him the third (joint) most Navy capped player.
This year's Army v Navy was the last time for PO Jan Laity in a Royal Navy shirt, which he has worn with immense pride over the last decade. He was awarded his first cap back in 1999.
Also saying goodbye at this fixture was Marine Rob Lloyd (42 Cdo RM). Capped for the Navy at outside half and full back, Rob is leaving the Royal Marines this year. He has enjoyed a successful rugby career, representing the Royal Marines and the Royal Navy, as well as Combined Services.