Army 29pts—Royal Navy 29
Drama. Stranger than fiction. One National paper described it as the “best Inter-Service game in recent history”. The fact that the Navy came back from a 19 pts deficit to kick a penalty and earn a 29 pts each draw—and thereby the Babcock Championship–was indeed remarkable.
Also, the fact that the Army allowed such a thing to happen is beyond baffling. It’s bizarre!
The Reds were cruising with a 19 pts cushion into the second half. Semesa Rokoduguni had crossed for a brace. Owain Davies No 15 crashed in at the corner and No 9 James Farrell stretched to finish a great team effort. James Dixon had found his range, morale was high judging from the mutual back slapping, but maybe some of the foot soldiers were losing a tad of concentration.
Flashing images of the Royal Box, a joyful beer in the dressing room and more silverware were dispelled when the Navy rattled in 19 pts. Morale had crossed the Rubicon.
It has been said that a yellow card provided a turning moment but that was, at best, a coincidence and simplistic. At this level there are ways of minimising the effects of playing one ‘light’ and the Army had that sort of experience.
The driving power of Gareth Evans and the Navy pack had to be countered for ten minutes. Conceding a penalty try did not help the cause and, just maybe, the Army recce troops had not factored in replacement scrum half Gareth Rees who has a habit of nipping round to the back door for his points.
At 26 pts each, four minutes on the clock and two emptied benches under the West Stand Owain Davies stood over the ball facing North. The Navy contingent in the 80,000 crowd gave the kicker the ‘respect’ they thought he deserved until Davies slammed the ball between the sticks for 3 pts.
The crowd were at fever point when Jon Humphrey, Navy No15, inherited a similar situation under the South stand. Head down and in best golfing style it was 29pts each. For the Navy and their supporters that was probably a reasonable reward for the decades spent as the underdogs and a year of taunts wherever, across the World, Red met Blue.
From quotes in the Sunday media the Royal Navy are already preening themselves in preparation for next season. They will know, with the clarity that comes with the following dawn, what happened at Halton, Pompey and TW1 was lady luck riding the chariot of good fortune to an infinite winning post.
Anything could have happened and in 2016 it did.