Bdr Bethan Dainton (RA) led the way with four tries to anchor the Army’s effort to retain the Inter Service Championship title with a 67-5 win over the Royal Navy at Twickenham.
The red shirts’ intent was clear from the start.
Sgt Heidi Silcox (RAMC) and Lt Sally Bellhouse (RAVC) made the inroads, and with the Army retaining possession the try seemed inevitable, especially with the Navy’s defence staying narrow and the red shirts having a massive overlap on the right. But Maj Chantelle Miller (AGC (RMP)) drove for the line, and credit to the dark blue rear-guard for their resilience to prevent the flanker from grounding the ball.
With the Navy unable to clear their lines from the drop-out and the Army sending a penalty to the corner, pressure mounted quickly, and with LCpl Millie Williams (AGC (RMP)) and Gnr Amy Carr (RA) combining nicely in the middle there was no stopping Pte Courtney Pursglove (RLC) improving on her already-impressive Twickenham scoring record.
There was no stopping Bdr Dainton either, when the flanker capitalised on a Navy mistake to scoop up a loose ball and race in from 40 metres.
Those quickfire tries put the Army 12-0 up inside 10 minutes, but the Navy did not let their heads drop, far from it, and – thanks to repeated penalties kicked to the corner – they had their first spell of pressure.
It was rewarded, too, despite Sgt Sarah Batley’s (AGC (RMP)) immense tackle, as Olivia Critchly-Peddle hit a short line to crash over to score the Navy Women’s first ever points at Twickenham.
Having conceded, the Army could have let their heads drop. Instead they came back with a vengeance with a pair of tries inside two minutes.
Pte Pursglove was heavily involved with both, giving the scoring pass to Gnr Charlotte Tweddle (RA) for the first and then showing her elusiveness and pace down the right wing for the second.
They were the finishers for what had been controlled, patient and effective build-up play from across the team, and a similar approach took the Army back into the red zone almost immediately.
This time the Navy were able to stop Pte Pursglove and Lt Bellhouse, the latter held up over the line, as was WO2 Rae Metters (REME) after Bdr Dainton had been pulled down short. Sgt Batley was denied – although had there been a TMO option in effect a five-pointer would have been awarded – and there were more good runs from Pte Pursglove and SSgt Mullen.
But the scores were remaining frustratingly elusive. At least that was until SSgt Mullen and Bdr Dainton combined to finally go through the Navy’s defence, the former with a turnover to create the mismatch for the latter to sprint through for her second try of the day.
This became a hat trick a minute into the second half, and while it was an 80-metre solo classic for the flanker, the try also owed plenty to LCpl Williams’s ambition to play with ambition from inside the Army’s 22.
Sgt Louise Dodd (QARANC) was next, on the end of a lovely piece of set-up play from Gnr Jess McAuley (RA), the replacement winger pointing the line she wanted the full back to run.
In what felt like the blink of an eye the Army had extended their lead to 41-5, and there was no way back for the Navy.
Even so, the dark blues continued to want to play, and they had the next opportunity when only a desperate tackle prevented wing Abigail Ashby from scoring what would have been a memorable try.
That hard work was rewarded just before the hour as Pte Pursglove once again showed her quality with ball in hand to both hold off two players in quick succession while also turning on the pace, before turning her hat trick into seven points with a successful conversion.
Even though this made the score 48-5 the action itself seemed more competitive than 12 months ago, and this was reflected in a statistic shown by BFBS on the hour mark which showed that the Army was in front in the possession percentages, but by only a 51-49 margin.
There was 50 points on the scoreboard, too, 2Lt Hannah Gilmour (RE) over in the corner after more patient play through the middle and accurate and unselfish passing to get the ball to the replacement winger.
Bdr Dainton’s fourth was another solo effort. Throughout the season the Welsh international has shown her quality, and this was once again on show as she spotted space in the Navy defence to turn on her pace to run in from more than 60 metres.
The 11th try was another long range effort, this time the red shirts combining as a unit to send Pte Pursglove away down the left wing. A desperate tackle from Rose Dixon stopped the winger going for her fourth, but SSgt Mullen was on hand to dive over and round things off.
Words © New Dogs, Old Tricks
All images – Alligin Photography © Army v Navy Match