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The Army sealed both the Babcock Trophy and the Inter-Services Championship title in a stunning match that saw the lead change hands six times at a sun-drenched Twickenham.

For the first 30 minutes the Navy faithful in the North Stand were treated to wave after wave of action as their team dominated territory and meaningful possession.

With AB Gareth Rees to the fore – the scrum-half showing his eye for space with a neat chip and chase, and ability to cause havoc by wriggling through an attempted tackle and turning on the pace and dancing feet – the team in blue were on top in every facet of the game.

In attack the Navy were making metres regularly, while their defensive pressure was forcing fumbles time and again, and the Army were simply unable to get a foothold in the contest. The ball hit the ground regularly, and even when they were able to kick deep the red shirts could not convert position into a serious threat.

However, for all their time on top it took the Navy 15 minutes to get onto the scoreboard.

Fly half AET Jordan Gott took three attempts to hit the target from the tee, and while the Navy did score a lovely try through LPT Ben Priddey – the hooker on the end of a move sparked by full back MNE Craig Duncan – the Army’s coaches would have been quietly satisfied that the lead was only 10-0.

LPT Ben Priddey scored the Navy’s opening try.

Image © Army v Navy Match

There had been some promising moments for the Army, Capt Will Reeve (4X HQ) de-fusing a pair of dangerous kicks, and LCpl Lloyd Wheeldon (3 Para) superbly selling a dummy and turning on the pace to put the Army onto the front foot. Debutant Gnr Mitieli Vulikijapani (RA) cut off the right wing, and with play up to the Navy’s 22 all of a sudden the Army were well set to build some dangerous phases. However the ball control was not there, and the again in the next attack.

One area where the Army had the edge was in the scrum, which had been a regular source of penalties, and on the half-hour one such effort brought the red shirts’ first points.

A kick was sent to the red zone, and the driving maul brought an advantage and a free play. LCpl Wheeldon darted, Gnr Vulikijapani ran a crash ball, and Sgt Matt Dawson (MI) was on the end of the close range drive for the try.

This sparked the Army into life.

Sgt Matt Dawson’s try got the Army on the scoreboard.

Image © Army v Navy Match

Bdr Connor O’Reilly (RA) had a good run up the left wing, Capt Jamie Miller (AAC) just unable to collect the offload at pace. The defence stepped up, too, getting into the Navy’s faces and forcing a fumble some 30 metres out from the blue whitewash.

And while Spr Jack Johnson (RE) was beaten to the ball from his own chargedown the Navy still had to drop out from the goal line, which would eventually bring a second try.

A penalty was won in the attack, the kick to the corner and the forwards – with some help from several backs – did the rest, driving hooker Bdr Pete Austin (RA) over for the try.

Spr Johnson, who had been so reliable off the tee throughout the season, was finding things a bit more challenging, but at 10-10 going into the break it would have definitely been the home dressing room which would have been the more satisfied.

Bdr Pete Austin’s try got the Army back level just before half time.

Image © Army v Navy Match

The second half began in a similar fashion to the first, with the red shirted forwards marching inexorably towards the line. For some reason a penalty conceded by the Navy did not result in a penalty try, and when Spr Johnson sent the ball to touch once again this time the ball was turned over.

Still the Army’s early pressure was rewarded by a Spr Johnson penalty, but that lead was short-lived, as the Navy won the kick off back, span the ball wide, and created the space for MNE Duncan to head to the uprights.

It was a superb try, and with the conversion sailing over the score was 13-17. But when the Navy this time were unable to secure the kick off the Army made them pay.

One forward after another drove through the line, and while replacement Gnr Senitiki Nayalo (7 Para RHA) was held up between the posts the Army were playing with an advantage, and when that was quickly taken there was no stopping the Coventry man, his power and reach taking him over the line.

Gunner Senitiki Nayalo crashed over for the Army’s third try.

Image © Army v Navy Match

Spr Johnson’s conversion made it 20-17, and when the fly half sent another kick to touch it quickly looked as if he would be having another shot at goal as the forwards drove a maul to within a couple of metres of the line.

The Navy deserved credit for the way they scrambled to hold the ball up and win the scrum, and the bounce this brought the team was rewarded at the other end of the field, where AET Gott’s penalty was followed by a close range try from AB Sam Matavesi.

This made the score 23-27 with a shade under 10 minutes to play, plenty of time for more action to bring the near-60,000 crowd to its feet, not least with the try that took the Army in front once again.

Patience in the face of structured defence saw the ball move from right to left and back again. LCpl Semesa Rokoduguni (Scots DG) had been relatively quiet, but when he pulled in a couple of defenders by keeping the ball out of contact he created the space for Capt Miller to charge down the right touchline.

Replacement Spr Mikey McDonald (RE) was in support on the inside with a clear run to the line, but with the conversion just wide the scoreline was 28-27.

Capt Jamie Miller combined with Spr Mikey McDonald, who finished the Army’s fourth try.

Image © Army v Navy Match

Back came the Navy with a penalty kicked deep into the Army’s danger zone. With a penalty, drop goal or try all in the offing it was going to take something special to stop the men in blue, and that was exactly what came, a massive midfield tackle from LCpl Rafi Fatiaki (R Signals) breaking up the attack.

A kick ahead forced the Navy back to halfway, where a penalty was won by the Army and kicked to touch.

With time ticking down the Army just needed to keep things tight to see out the clock. But the Navy were also wary of conceding the penalty, too, which gave the red pack the space to work their way upfield and eventually over the line.

Pte Viliame Kotobalavu (RLC) came up with the ball, Spr Johnson kicked the conversion, and the Babcock Trophy was held aloft by Capt Miller.

Pte Viliame Kotobalavu scored the Army’s fifth and final try and with it sealed victory and the Inter Service title.

Image © Army v Navy Match

Winners of the Babcock Trophy and Men’s 2022 Inter Service Championship.

Image © Army v Navy Match

Words © New Dogs, Old Tricks.  Header and Featured Images © Army v Navy Match

Match Gallery

A full mage gallery from the match can be viewed HERE