2023 Army v Navy - Army Women Run Out One-Way Winners Over Navy Women - Ruck

2023 Army v Navy – Army Women Run Out One-Way Winners Over Navy Women

The Army Women have been crowned champions of the 2023 Inter-Services competition, after a one-sided victory over the Royal Navy at Twickenham Stadium. Bethan Dainton shone with four tries for the Army, and Sale Sharks star Courtney Pursglove ran in a hat-trick and kicked an unobtainable deficit against the Navy for a 67-5 final score.

Army Women’s Head Coach Sarah Mitchelson spoke about the impact of Leeds Rhinos star Dainton, and how she and Pursglove bring the added edge to the squad, having played at the highest level.

“They (Dainton and Pursglove) bring all the professionalism with them, and then they make the team grow with them. Like without them, I wouldn’t have such a great squad, because they just make our team grow around them. And everything that they do on the pitch, they are professional athletes on and off the pitch. And they bring the rest of the girls up with them.

“Yeah, I didn’t expect anything less, that’s exactly what they should be coming away with. They are the athletes who should be scoring the points, and it’s nice to see them get into a real flow of their running today.”

The Army Women were looking for revenge, after the Navy Men lifted the Babcock Trophy earlier in the afternoon. The Army Women started the first half as if they were fired out of a cannon, as they scored two tries within the first 10 minutes of the match.

After piling on heavy pressure in the Navy’s 22, the Army strung the ball neatly through the hands, and out wide to Courtney Pursglove. The flying winger found space to go over in the corner, yet Pursglove’s following conversion was missed from out wide.

The Navy re-started the match, but were soon back underneath their goalposts. The Army gathered the kick-off, and played back-rower Bethan Dainton through a gap in the defence. An impressive solo try was capped-off by Pursglove’s conversion, and a 12-0 lead.

The Navy fired back, and they forced a change in the momentum at Twickenham. After pinning the Army back in their corner for dominant spell, the Navy attempted a rolling maul but it was halted just short of the line. The sailors maintained the pressure, and drove closer to the line with short picks.

Back-rower Olivia Critchley-Peddle gained the all important yards for a milestone Navy try. This was the history making try that the Navy had hoped for, as it marks the first ever try scored at Twickenham, by a Navy Women’s rugby player. Full back Suz Badger took up the kicking duties, but was unable to add the extras from the tee.

Despite these positive signs from the Navy, the Army reclaimed control and closed out the first half with three unanswered tries. Three minutes after the Navy’s try, the Army responded through left-winger Charlotte Tweddle, who showed great awareness to collect a high pass, and finish strongly with a burst of pace along the left touchline.

Courtney Pursglove grabbed her brace, with an impressive arching run around the outside of the Navy defenders. Pursglove showed a strong fend to the last Navy tackle attempt, before grounding the ball to score. Flanker Bethan Dainton closed out the first half with her second try of the game, as she picked up the ball in midfield, and pinned her ears back with ‘I’ll do it myself attitude’. Pursglove’s conversion sent the two sets of servicewomen off for half time at 29-5.

The one-sided try-scoring continued into the second half, with Dainton securing her hat-trick one minute after the re-start. The back-rower executed a neat fend and step combination, before charging away across the Twickenham grass to score. Three minutes later full-back Louise Dodd extended the Army’s points tally, as she reaped the plaudits of a well-hit supporting line. Pursglove’s conversion built a 41-5 lead after 44 minutes.

Despite the score-line, the Navy Women showed great resilience and pride when representing their service. Captain Rose Dixon led her side from the front, as they continued to make the afternoon a physical challenge for the Army.

After a scoreless 16 minutes showcased the defensive tenacity of the Navy, the Army found a way through, as Courtney Pursglove sealed her hat-trick. The Sale Sharks and England 7s star added to her highlight reel, as she broke free of two Navy tackle attempts, and in to score along her fabled right touchline. Pursglove added the extras from the tee, and took her personal points tally up to 23.

The Army hit top gear, and ran out a further three tries, in the final 10 minutes at Twickenham Stadium. Replacement back Hannah Gilmour will take fond memories from this match, as she came off-the-bench to score the Army’s ninth try of the afternoon. Leeds Rhino and for Harlequin Bethan Dainton then grabbed her fourth try of the game as the Army struck for their tenth.

The match ended in fitting fashion, with Army Captain Jade Mullen scoring the Army’s eleventh and final try of the match, and wrapped up the day with a ‘captain’s contribution.’ Pursglove’s conversion closed out the day’s points-scoring, for a resounding victory for the Army.

“Not just today, but all season. She has been incredible.” Army Women Head Coach Mitchelson spoke about Mullen.

“She’s been everything that Captain should be. And it couldn’t be more fitting for her to get the final try the season.”

Mullen spoke after the game and praised her teammates for the landslide victory. She highlighted Dainton and Pursglove in her post-match interview and praised the progression of Women’s rugby in the Army.

“Honestly, it was a great team performance. I was lucky to get on the scoreboard, anyone could have scored today. It was a massive team effort and that’s what’s important.

“I love Bethan to bits, she’s vice-captain. If I have any  problems I go to her. She lifts the team up in a leadership capacity. Obviously, Courtney, second season and still growing, still developing as a player gone off and done on Premier 15s rugby, and that’s what we want. And we want the girls to grow, and it’s great having that leadership capacity in the team.”

Despite the score-line, the match did in fact feature a historic moment for the Navy Women. Back-rower Olivia Critchly-Peddle’s try after 15 minutes, marked the first ever try for the Navy Women at Twickenham Stadium, and a clear sign of progression in the side.

Navy Women’s Captain Rose Dixon highlighted the significance of Critchly-Peddle’s try, in the post-match reaction. Women’s rugby in the Navy have taken their first few steps, in progressing in their ‘five year plan’.

“Yeah, incredible. And we were really going to thrive off of that now, you know. I don’t know the last time that we put a try past the army off the top of my head. So that’s something that we’re going to take forward and really build on and there’s so much excitement around that.”

“We get better year on year. And that’s clear to see with scores throughout the services. So, you know, what they say, it is a five year plan and we’re hitting all the goals that we want to hit. So obviously disappointed not to come away with a win today. But also really proud of the girls, for hitting the goals and exceeding my expectations.”

Navy Women’s Head Coach Sam Cuff echoed his Captain’s comments, in how the Navy Women’s side are taking strides in the right direction.

“Well, I think this year can be considered a small step forward from last year. We bought quite few new girls into the squad, there’s a lot of young girls in the squad. And we’ve got some girls we couldn’t select because they were on training courses or on ship, and we couldn’t get them away.

“So I think all of that kind of coming together and building for next season, I think if they hit the ground running from kind of September, October onwards, they’re really built quickly and I think it will be a closer game next year”

ARMY WOMEN: 67

TRIES: 11 (Pursglove 6’, 21’ 57’,  Dainton 8’, 37’ 41’, 72’, Tweddle 18’, Dodd 44’, Gilmour 70’, Mullen 76’)

CONVERSIONS 6 (Pursglove 8’, 37’, 44’, 57’, 60’, 76’)

PENALTIES: 0

DROP GOALS: 0

YELLOW CARDS: 0

RED CARDS: 0

15. Sgt Louise Dodd 14. Pte Courtney Pursglove 13. SSgt Jade Mullen (C) 12. Gnr Amy Carr 11. Gnr Charlotte Tweddle 10. LCpl Millie Williams 9. Cpl Charlie Morgan 1. Sgt Sarah Batley 2. WO Rae Metters 3. SSgt Natalie Lewis 4. Sgt Heidi Silcox 5. Capt Colette Broome 6. Maj Chantelle Miller 7. Bdr Bethan Dainton 8. Lt Sally Bellhouse

16. Pte India King 17. Tpr Holly Beacom 18. Sgt Mariette Claassens 19. Spr Lauren Brooks 20. Maj Anneka Willis 21. Gdsm Manuqalo Komaitai 22. 2Lt Hannah Gilmour 23. Gnr Jess McAuley

ROYAL NAVY WOMEN: 5

TRIES: 1 (Critchly-Peddle 15’)

CONVERSIONS: 0

PENALTIES: 0

DROP GOALS: 0

YELLOW CARDS: 0

RED CARDS: 0

15. LPT ERI Suz Badger 14. Bug Bronagh Gibb 13. ET Sian McLaughlin 12. LH Rose Dixon (C) 11. LT Abigail Ashby 10. PO Samantha Alderson 9. SLt Rhian Perry 1. Mid Rosie Staples 2. SLt Rebecca Addis 3. AET Lucy Honeybell 4. Wtr Olivia Fifita 5. AH Yvonne Mealy 6. Lt Olivia Critchly-Peddle 7. QARRNS-Nursing Rowan Sinclair 8. AWW Laika Swain

16. LDN Keira Gavan 17. ETME Ellen Bloxham 18. ETWE Gemma Flowers 19. ETME Heather Addison-Prout 20. ETWE(CIS) Elona Bythell 21. AB Evangeline Horne 22. Surg Lt Cdr Emma Maxwell 23. Wtr Daisy Lumsden

Babcock Player of the Match for the Elliot Brown Watch – Bethan Dainton