A record crowd of 72,000 witnessed the Army recover from a 19 pts deficit to beat a valiant Royal Navy by 43 pts—26 to retain the BABCOCK Trophy.
The Army Reds opened smoothly in the sunshine but the Navy took control in the eighth minute. Wham, Slam, Bam. Two quick tries from centre Dale Sleeman put the Navy on the crest followed by a near killer punch from the ever present No8 Gaz Evans. Predicated on Army mistakes it was powerful and pretty to watch as the Blues racked up their 19pts in 12 minutes.
Sam Speight and fourteen men converted the thin red line into a wildfire rugby drama on the biggest stage of all. The forwards surged as one and to a man drove the ball into opposition territory.
In Sevens, 19 pts adrift is hardly a calamity. ‘Heads on’ –so the Reds backs played with innovation and thrust their attacks into and around the teeth of the defence. It was winger Sam Speight who ghosted past three defenders for a superb one handed touch-down.
That taste of the good times got the big battalions rolling. Laser focussed forward play hoovered up the ball and allowed Bath FC centre Samesa Rokoduguni to bullock his way over in the corner. Peceli Nacamavuto at No 12 ran in a third and crucially full back Ceri Cummings converted two from three very difficult kicks. ‘You’r e not Singing Any More’ rang around Twickers.
Half time, 19 pts apiece but the body language suggested the Reds were on song. There was only going to be one second half team as they emerged from the tunnel. The Army forwards were now at the gallop, the exchanges said ‘enough is enough’ and Cummings wisely took a penalty for 3 pts and the lead.
Fifteen man rugby with power, speed and deft touches brought the score to 43 pts—19. Gerhard Wessels was at his very best at centre. Royal Scots Dragoon Guardsman Rokoduguni upped the gallop to the charge to score a brace. His speed and physique make for a hard target with 20 metres to go. Inosi Laqekoro in his first run at Twickenham went over for another.
No one played a more complete match than Army skipper and lock Darrell Ball. The chips were down, he rallied the troops and then played a superb game of rugby in the line out, the scrum and the contact play. Close behind was the 40 year old legend Chris Budgen who burst down the centre of Twickenham with Blue shirts dripping from his shoulders—until they fell by the wayside.
At the death Navy wing Jack Foster went over for a try converted by Navy skipper Dave Pascoe. Mentally and physically the Navy were ready to have another go but it was too late.
Army v Navy 2013 was a great game of rugby. A feast for 72,000 and an inspiration for all would be rugby people. Darrell Ball ushered his cohorts to the Presidents Box before receiving the Triple Crown—The Babcock Trophy, the Inter Services Championship Bowl and the Man of the Match award. Beat that!