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The Army Senior Men clawed past the Royal Navy with a dramatic 43-42 finish at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday, entering their next match against the RAF with title-winning ambitions intact.

A hat-trick from LBdr Senitiki Nayalo kept his side in the game, before a stunning try from Rfn Vereimi Qorowale sealed the deal at the death.

Now, the Army look ahead to Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester, next Saturday, when they will have ambitions to bring the Inter Service trophy back to Aldershot.

At Twickenham, the Navy started on the front foot, as Inter Service debutant AET Jack Wright opened the scoring with a try on the fifth-minute, before a conversion was scored by AET Jordan Gott.

With a purposeful run through the middle, scrum half ETME William Rigelsford found Cpl Ratu Vakalutukali, who made it 0-10.

Soon after, Rigelsford got on the scoresheet himself, collecting the ball from an offload before evading his man to secure a third try for the Navy.

Then, a sequence of fast hands from the Navy floated the ball over to Mne Kristan Dobson, who steamed past a cluster of Army defenders to extend his side’s lead.

From an Army lineout, though, LBdr Senitiki Nayalo got his team off the mark, as an unconverted try narrowed the gap to 5-22.

On the 30th minute, another fiercely-contested maul led to a second try for Wright, with Gott’s conversion making it 5-29 before halftime.

The Army stormed out of the blocks as they entered the second half when, from a lineout, skipper Bdr Peter Austin launched a long ball that eventually fell to Nayalo, who pinched his second try of the game.

After a clean conversion, Spr Jack Johnson flew back into his attacking role and, as the Army continued to pile on the pressure, the fly half made it 17-29 with a clinical try.

It was then the Army’s turn to drive a maul over the Navy’s tryline, with SSgt Ashley Horner getting his side back into the game before Johnson struck a well-executed kick from the tee.

With stability temporarily restored by the Navy – after a penalty was scored by Gott – LETME Dom Cleverly came off the bench to score his side’s sixth try of the game.

On the 70th minute, a long kick was chased down by the Army, and Nayalo secured his hat-trick with an explosive tap-and-go.

The Army then sprung back into action following Johnson’s conversion, but Gott had other plans, scoring a late penalty to make it 31-42.

As the game drew closer to an end, the Army produced some drama with a counter-attacking effort that led to a try from LCpl Solodrau Radianirova.

Johnson’s conversion then made it 38-42, before Rfn Vereimi Qorowale stunned the Navy with a last-minute try in front of 46,092 supporters at Twickenham Stadium.

The Army’s hat-trick hero, LBdr Senitiki Nayalo, won the Babcock player of the match award, after securing his side a 43-42 win in an enthralling clash.

Once the dust had settled, Army head coach Tim Osman said: “We had to believe; we had to hold on, and the boys really delivered in that second half. I’m really delighted for them.

“The boys need to recover quickly [for the RAF game]. They need to get their bodies back together in one piece after taking a few knocks in that game.”

Army vice-captain A/Maj Stuart Cross added: “It was a pretty crazy game. [The Navy] came out absolutely firing, and it shows that if you don’t make your first-step tackles against players of that calibre, you’re going to be behind pretty quickly.

“Fortunately we had a really good start to the second half – the momentum was in our favour and, after a nervy finish, I was absolutely buzzing with the result.”

Words © Oscar Pick

All images – Alligin Photography © Army Rugby Union


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