Army Try-umph

Last Saturday saw history made at the home of English rugby – Twickenham – as the 100th Army versus Navy rugby match was played out in front of a capacity crowd.

The centenary match took place 139 years after the two Services met for the first time when officers from both Services met at the Oval.

It was not until 1907 that the fixture became an annual event. Since then it has been played every season, the only breaks being during the war years and in 2010 due to the Icelandic volcano ash disrupting flights, which meant the Army team could not travel from their training camp in South Africa.

The game is the highlight of the inter-Service championship which the Army has won 44 times, the Navy 20 and the Royal Air Force 15.

The Service to have the current upper hand in this head-to-head is the Army, having won 60 of the previous 99 matches and also eight from the last 10 meetings. 

As the players came out of the tunnel,  the crowd provided the atmosphere and Prince Harry – patron of the Invictus games – met the teams.

The Army made a fine start to the game going ahead through a James Dixon penalty followed by a Junior Bulumakau try to make it 8-0. 

The Navy replied when Jon Humphrey’s penalty sailed over the posts to make it 8-3.

Seven minutes to the half way point and Gareth Rees was sent to the sin bin for illegal use of the foot, picked up by the TMO. Dixon stepped up again and added three more points from the resulting penalty.

At the half-time whistle the score was 11-3 to the Army, who started the stronger, but despite their lead and having a man advantage they could not increase the gap between themselves and the Royal Navy. The Navy need to fight back to gain a 12-point lead to be Inter Service Champions. If the Army rediscovered their early half intensity they could put the Navy to bed and finish off the game early in the second half. 

As the second half commenced it all seemed to go to plan for the Army as they played the ball quickly out to winger Chris Leathem who crossed the line for five points. 

A few moments later the game was stopped as an accidental clash of head resulted in Navy penalty scorer Jon Humphrey being taken off by medical staff.

This seemed to fire the Navy up, as after the game restarted they wasted no time in  hitting back when their captain Ben Priddey scored a try, making it 16-10.

The Army responded superbly with a converted try followed by two penalties to take the score to 29-10. 

It looked all but over with four minutes to go when the Navy managed to pull a consolation try back when Seta Raumakita injected some hope, and the score was taken to 29-15.

With less than two minutes left on the clock the Navy seemed to get their second wind as they applied some great pressure to the Army back-line as they came within metres of scoring. 

As the clock struck 80 minutes; the Navy found the energy for one last push as they managed to get the ball over the line for one last time to make the final score 29-20.

The result meant the Army were crowned the 2017 Babcock Trophy champions, but more importantly they made history and have the bragging rights for winning the 100th game between these two great Services.

The match summarised the great nature of the British Armed Forces, as the crowd stayed on until long past the final whistle to watch their colleagues, friends and heroes go up to receive their medals and lift the trophy.

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