OUTSIDE of the professional arena, rugby is played at every level; one of the most formidable opponents for any professional side is the Armed Forces. Whether it be the Army, Navy or Air Force, rugby being the tough man’s game, it fits in with the ethos and discipline of servicemen (and women) and thus is played by most forces around the world.
Previously, one had to reach out to individual Forces’ Rugby Unions to gain an awareness of the state of rugby, and since actually their core business is saving their nation, there was not always complete information available. Rugby Unplugged is compiling a comprehensive collection of the world’s Armed Forces Rugby teams, and will be bringing you up to date information on who is playing where and when, alongside reports and interviews with players from the Elite squads through to the Veterans.
As you can see, we see this as an essential component of Rugby Unplugged so have dedicated an entire section to this noble cause! With the help of certain influential individuals in the British Army Rugby Union, we hope this is where servicemen worldwide will turn to keep an on eye on the state of their own team, and make sure the opposition aren’t getting above their station!
FULL DETAILS ON THE INAUGURAL IDRC 2011 COMING SOON...
THOSE who arrived in Twickenham early enjoyed a full day of entertaining rugby. The two 10.30am matches at Kneller Hall were both won by the Army sides; the women with an outstanding 68 - 0 whitewash, while the Masters defeated the Ancient Mariners 22 - 9.
In the stadium, the early birds were treated to a 65 - 5 victory to the Combined Services U23s over the Oxbridge U23s. Despite an Army clean sweep, the emphatic Combined Services victory gave something for all military spectators to cheer for.
And then came the star turns...
The Army ran in seven good tries against the Royal Navy in the Babcock Trophy match at Twickenham. All but the faintest memories of 2010 have been expunged, good order and military discipline has, after a painful twelve months, been fully restored!
As Ben Hughes emerged from the tunnel and crossed the chalk line he knew he had created an Army record 32nd cap—a magnificent feat of selfless devotion. No wonder singing the National Anthem in front of 62,799 partisans felt good. He knew the Navy had prepared for a roughhouse and that it was his job to secure the front trenches. He also knew now, if ever, was the time to deliver.
The Army started cautiously, gave away a penalty and then allowed the Navy a pretty soft try. Ten points down and frankly not looking that good. It was therefore a massive credit that Melvin Lewis quietly regrouped his cohorts and demanded more from his spearhead players. Many of the Army players had the advantage of experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and knew what it meant to ‘take stock and buck-up’.
Apo Satala ran, twisted and swatted blue shirts away to cross in the corner. Jack Prasad then ran a full 50m for the best individual try seen at Twickenham for decades. A show on the outside, a jink and shrug combined with pure genius and he was off to the posts escorted by a flotilla of blue jerseys– to no avail. Ceri Cummings converted for a 12pts—10 half time lead.
Reports have it that even after such a fantastic end of half flourish, it did little to soften coach Andy Sanger’s half time homily—pain comes in all shapes!
The second half was different as the Reds opened their lungs to play total rugby. Maybe the Navy had suffered from their first half battering but as the Army surged forward in numbers the Matelots were left clutching at straws. No one laid a finger on Ben Seru as he went around to the posts. Cummings converted.
Cue exhibition rugby at the match when and where it truly mattered. Prasad tied England 7s international Greg Barden in knots causing the latter to resort to some unnecessary ‘afters’. He had the Navy defence thinking anything but the ‘actuals’, enabling centres Paul Gittins and Peceli Nacamavuto to cut loose as Prasad moved the ball wide.
The return of lock Darrell Ball to a Reds’ shirt was a huge bonus. His aerial skills at the lines out and receiving kicks-off under severe provocation were second to none. Gareth Slade Jones winning his 25th Army cap at scrum half was there to make the best of what he received. Replacement Ian Martin added a little something extra as the Reds upped the tempo.
Ifereimi Boladau at No6 led the Reds on successive rampages deep into Navy territory. Seru notched up his hat trick and Satala bagged a second. The final flourish came when Gus Qasevakatini flew down the left for a most spectacular finish.
It was a signed, sealed and delivered victory and the Red sections of the record crowd roared their delight. It was a farewell triumph for the hugely understated skipper Melvin Lewis who has all season grafted in the front row and led his men forward. He ensured that vital link between the mind of the coach and action on the park. “We stuck to our patterns, we got couple of scores and everyone settled down. I was always confident we would come away with a win”. Some win!
Coach Andy Sanger was in a reflective mood when he said “It was a good day for Army rugby. We started a little slowly but soon picked up the vital focus and the pace. The big men did their stuff when it was needed and it was great to see the likes of Twickenham fresher Ifereimi Boladau coming through. Our rugby at the Babcock Inter Services Championship demonstrated so clearly the value of the offshore training camp where individuals can come together as a team, discuss the art of the possible and then rehearse to as near perfection as we can.”
A great day was had by all, and plenty of money was raised for the BFBS' Big Salute. The fixture returns on 28th April 2012, when the Navy will be out for revenge!
CLICK BANNER FOR ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ON ARMY NAVY 2011
BABCOCK CHALLENGE ON TRACK
20th April 2011
by Roger Thompson
The Army outplayed the RAF 52 pts-0 at Aldershot in what was another special night for Sapper lock Ben Hughes who won his 31st cap— an Army record.
After six minutes winger Ben Seru remained on station to finish off a team try under the posts. The Army were then tempted into a period of ‘free play’ where Apo Satala was immense. No6 Bola Boladau as frequently on his shoulder to crank up the momentum as was hooker Matt Dwyer who enjoyed a number of ‘runs’.
As the game tightened a number of the Army ploys rehearsed in the Portugal Boot Camp unfolded and the Reds ran lines that would have graced any stadium. Paul Gittins is a whole chunk of centre and has never looked sharper. Peceli Nacamavuto found the hard ground much to his liking and his try was a just reward for both initiative and endeavour.
For those counting there were eight tries and Ceri Cummings returned to the fray with five conversions. The pick was probably Malakai Magnus’s first, not so much for the individual finish but for the build-up and clinical execution.
Ben Seru scored a second and featured in many others whilst Malakai Magnus on the opposite wing also hauled in a brace. Full back Ceri Cummings was back to his attacking best. He had no hesitation in telling the other fourteen what he wanted !
Stand-off Jack Prasad was more than a handful for the RAF air defence whilst scrum half Ian Martin came off the bench to remind selectors and crowd of his mercurial skills. Matt Bowman scored near the posts at the death.
This was a good RAF side with twelve new caps from the Navy game the previous week. They scrummaged well and tackled with pride.. They rucked as though they wanted to compete and diminutive fly half Rory Wood looked good for many seasons to come.
Twickenham beckons for yet another winner takes all battle. The Navy won 52 pts—3 at Newbury whilst the Army did not concede. A close enough prelude for what on 7th May should be the tastiest BABCOCK Inter Service match seen at HQ for a decade.
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CLICK LOGO FOR ARMY NAVY 2010 COVER STORY
Inter-Services Championship 2010
ARMY XV 22 - 24 ROYAL NAVY XV
TWICKENHAM – 1st May 2010
May-Day, May Day, May Day - Red Mist turns to fog... Navy defeats the Army 24 pts -22 at Twickenham
Reporter/Photographer: Roger Thompson
The Army was 22pts-9 ahead at the start of the fourth quarter and dominating play when, with the help of the Gods, it conspired to lose a match that should as a contest have been dead and buried well before half time.
The history of the British Army is a litany of glorious 'cock-ups' such as Gallipoli 1915 and to that can now be added Twickenham 2010.
The Army has no one to blame but themselves. It was not just the 'sin-binning' of two forwards for acts of gross stupidity in the shadow of their own posts but the string of penalties presented to Navy skipper Dave Pascoe who, as anyone who has ever watched Army v Navy knows, can slot them from the changing room.
Rewinding to before the last twelve minutes of the match, the Army started in boisterous mood and achieved forward domination inside twenty minutes, but and a very big but, the Navy were well drilled and certainly 'up' for this one. At no time did they lose contact on the scoreboard and, forced to defend, the tackles came in quickly with a degree of venom not seen in the past decade.
With the Reds in control up-front, Fiji international fly half Jack Prasad started to feel the turf under his feet. A couple of quick rehearsals and third time he was off with a dummy that saw him clear to the posts. Full back Ceri Cummings added a second try when he launched himself at the line through would be tacklers, and then added a conversion and a penalty for a half time lead of 15pts-3.
There must have been smiles in the changing room. The Red's pack was clearly on top and the backs were starting to sing. Twice Gus Qasevakatini was pulled back by the whistle, latterly when he had run 70 m for a certain try. Prasad, with the assurance that he had the measure of the Navy close defence, started to lead his backs through the gaps. Naka Nacamavuto ran a superb line to take Prasad's sweet pass to the five point line for Cummings to convert and establish a 22pts-9 lead.
Man of the Match Army flanker Apo Satala, at his ebullient best, took on the Navy defence at short and long range and, with Blues' bodies littering his wake, created opportunities which should have scuppered the Navy. The Army attacked and came close and attacked again but a resolute Navy defence held in the absolute belief that the tide might turn-which it did.
The sin binning of Chris Budgen on 68 minutes was bad enough but skipper Mark Lee had to leave the field for the front row to be rebalanced and the three points that followed hurt even more. Down to fourteen men was a time for clear heads and single mindedness but Dave Bates' fresh legs served only to walk him back to the tunnel to watch Navy replacement hooker Ben Priddy being driven over the line against six Red shirts. Army 22 - 19 Navy.
With less than two minutes remaining the Navy engines and gear boxes were screaming. The 'now or never' feeling welled into the brains of anyone in a Blues' shirt-on the pitch and in the stands. Gaz Evans, playing at prop, in a position where he may have been one grunt short of a full-heave, crashed to the line. Referee Dean Richards called for the dreaded TV replay, whilst delirious Navy supporters wailed 'Navy, Navy'-not a sight or sound heard at Twickenham in recent years. The TMO awarded the try. Army 22 pts-Navy 24.
Fifteen men in Red shirts had established a winning position in the first half of an exciting game. Fifteen men took the field in the second half but left two brains in the tunnel and were unable to finish off a match that could always be tight to the wire. To misquote 'Question of Sport' no one will ever explain 'What Happened Next'.
Don't begrudge the Navy their first win in nine years. Andy Price's Army team were well prepared, played very well for 70 minutes and outscored the Navy three tries to two. Izzie and the girls in the ARU office were dusting off the silver cloth but an accumulation of unforced errors had allowed the Navy to stay in touch --even before Budgen and Bates were sent to warm the naughty bench.
It was the Navy, under the leadership of skipper Dave Pascoe, that showed the sort of character we would expect from the men in Red shirts and that, in itself, was an example of how a game is never lost until it is won.
OFFICIALS: Referee: Dean Richards, Assistant Referees: Andy Watson and Mike Priestley, 4th Official: Roy Maybank, 5th Official: Dave Squires, TMO: Geoff Warren, MOPR: Paul Bridgman.