2023 Army v Navy - Royal Navy Men Win Historic Match At Twickenham Stadium - Ruck

2023 Army v Navy – Royal Navy Men Win Historic Match At Twickenham Stadium

The Royal Navy have won the 2023 Men’s Inter-Services competition, as they recorded a historic victory over the Army at Twickenham Stadium. Over 50,000 fans watched, on as the Navy beat their old military rival for the first time since 2010, with the final score-line reading 39-22 to the Navy.

They Navy have their hands on the converted Babcock Trophy, for the first time since 2016. Captain Jarrard Hayler lifted the trophy high at the home of English rugby, as the sailors prevailed in this incredible battle between the Armed Forces. Royal Navy Captain Jarrard Hayler scored the win-sealing try, and spoke after the memorable occasion.

“It’s absolutely incredible. I think it’s not just about scoring for me, it’s obviously getting that win, which was great. And all I can say is I couldn’t have done it without every single player in that squad, including those lads who been left back behind, or are injured, or everyone who’s been there has actually dug deep and worked hard for us to get this win.”

“I think for me, winning the Inter-services in 2016 was a bittersweet one. Obviously, it’s a win, but when you speak to people it’s like, ‘yeah, but you drew’ (against the Army). So this one is there’s defined lines, we’ve definitely won the inter-services this year, and we’ve beaten the army at Twickenham. So that’s an accolade that we can take on and live well with.”

The 2023 Army v Navy Men’s match kicked off, with an excitable buzz of services rugby fans, friends and families. The Navy started the fixture off fastest, and had points on the board after just three minutes at Twickenham Stadium. Fly Half Jordan Gott fired the first shot of the afternoon’s action, as the Navy took an early lead.

The sailors started the match with an adventurous vigour, and kept the Army pinned back for the opening quarter of an hour. The Navy were not afraid to run the ball out from their own half, and welcomed the Army’s challenge at the contact zone. Gott doubled the Navy’s lead after 12 minutes, with a second well struck penalty.

The Army responded after 15 minutes, with centre Vereimi Qorowale leading from the front. The Newcastle Falcons star carried hard, and sent a one-handed offload over the top of the Navy defenders, in an impressive piece of a skill. This Army attack was cut short, as an illegal Navy interception brought play back for a penalty. Owain Davies slotted the effort, narrowing the gap to three points at 3-6.

A third pinpoint effort from the boot of Jordan Gott, sent the Navy into a 9-3 lead. However the Army soon found the first two tries of the match, as winger Cameron McDonald grabbed back-to-back scores, and the Army stretched in-front. McDonald’s first try came after 24 minutes, as he intercepted the wayward looping pass of Navy centre Setareki Raumakita, and showcased great pace to break away from the back-peddling defenders.

McDonald followed this up with his brace three minutes later, which came from a well worked Army rolling maul. The set-piece resembled a Sherman Tank powering downfield, as the Army then worked the ball well to the backs. Owain Davies sold a dummy on the first line runner, with McDonald taking the following line, yet was slowed down slightly by an ankle tap. He regathered his footing, and the winger was able to break away through the gap, in for his second try of the match.

Davies converted for a 15-9 lead, but a resilient Gott kept the Navy in the match. The Fly Half levelled up the score to 15-15 with two more well taken penalties. The Navy then had the final say of the first 40 minutes, as Raumakita crossed over for the sailors first try, and took a late lead into the break.

Navy winger Jerome Rudder executed a neat offload to Gott, who straightened up and exploded away downfield, cutting through the Army defence. He has support on his left and right, as he took on the last defender. He passed to Raumakita, who topped off the try with a diving splash over the line. Gott’s conversion sent the players off for halftime.

The Navy took this momentum into the second half, and were over to extend their lead just four minutes after the re-start. A loose ball in the Army 22 spelt disaster for the men in red, with Navy prop Ben Watson crashing up the line. Watson was stopped inches short of scoring, and scrum half Dan Rutter sniped in to score from the back of the ruck.

The resilient Army responded just four minutes later, as this back-and-forth fixture took another swing in momentum. Cameron McDonald completed his hat-trick for the Army, as the roof erupted at Twickenham Stadium. Davies sent a miss-pass wide, and found Captain Stu Cross out on the wing. The flanker popped the ball in-field to McDonald, who put on the afterburners to seal his hat-trick. Davies conversion narrowed the deficit to 22-29, as the atmosphere reached a fever-pitch.

The Navy continued to show their strength and the set-piece, and forced a penalty out of the Army at scrum-time. Jordan Gott followed this up with his sixth successful shot at goal, and took the Navy to a 10-point lead. The men in blue continued this pressure, and had one hand on their first Babcock Trophy since 2015.

On the hour mark, number eight Ratu Vakalutukali made an immense break into the back-field and looked set for the try-line. The determined Army defenders managed a late tap tackle on the back-rower, but the Taunton Titan kept the ball alive with an offload to his Captain. Jarrard Hayler was in support, and the flanker dove across the whitewash and sent the Navy fans into a frenzy. Gott’s conversion pulled the Navy further in front to 22-39, and secured the memorable victory.

Royal Navy Head Coach Dave Pascoe is a veteran of the Army v Navy match, and holds the record for Senior Navy caps. He knows all too well what this win means for the Navy, and spoke after the match.

“Amazing to win. So fortunately, for me, I was involved, I was the captain playing in 2010. So I had the opportunity to lift that trophy. And it’s taken 13 years to gain victory over them. Again, previous to that played in 2001, and unknown to me, we haven’t won for 10 years previous to that, and that was like my first game. I’m hoping that it’s not another 10 or 13 years until the next victory.”

“Like I said, the boys deserve it. So I made sure that they knew the history or understand the history of it. And it doesn’t happen too often. Obviously, we want to try and make it happen again. But yeah, they’ll celebrate tonight for sure.”

The Army were dejected to lose on the Twickenham stage, and Captain Stu Cross voiced this frustration. However, he was sure to congratulate the Navy in his post-match reaction.

“Yeah, I think any anytime you don’t get the result the there’s going to be disappointment. I suppose the first message is huge congratulations to the Navy, they came here to play and they played for 80 minutes, and we’ll good for the win in the end.”

“I think if we look at the first half, I think our defence outrun our discipline. That was probably what led us down the most, we gave them easy ins into our half, which we shouldn’t have. But then credit to the Navy, they took those opportunities, which we gave them.”

The Army have endured a transitional period this season, as veterans and international stars move on from the team. The likes of Semesa Rokoduguini were sorely missed today, with Cross commenting on this new era of Army rugby.

“I mean, people looked at this season as a transition. We had lots of lots of seasoned players going but they’re all that provides is an opportunity. And throughout the season we’ve built and we’ve built, but it didn’t go our way today. But I think our performance against the RAF, particularly in the second half, shows that, that transition hasn’t necessarily come to effect.”

Army Head Coach Tim Osman recognised how this was a good opportunity for the newer Army stars to get to grips with the Twickenham lights. He praised Germany capped international Cameron McDonald, after the winger scored a hat-trick on the day.

“Well, he’s (McDonald) been pushing, and pushing, and pushing all season. He’s frighteningly talented, and so great to see him score and then to get two, and then the third, is sort of a nice bonus for him after a really good season with his international capsule which he has as well. So yeah, delighted for him. And he deserves all good things.”

“It’s an opportunity to blood these new people, there’s some decent talent out there. And there’ll be better for the experience today. You know, it’s nobody likes losing games on big stages, you know, a big finale, a big end of the season for us, and all those sorts of cliches.

“So we’ve got to just suck that up, get on with it, and come back again next year stronger as a result. So you know, that people say you have to learn from mistakes. And we have to make sure we do that. So they’re better players for it. And hopefully we can bounce out of that transition this year and be better for it next year.”

ARMY MEN: 22

TRIES: 3 (McDonald 24’, 27’, 48’)

CONVERSIONS 2: (Davies 27’, 48’)

PENALTIES: 1 (Davies 15’)

DROP GOALS: 0

YELLOW CARDS: 0

RED CARDS: 0

15. Maj William Reeve 14. Spr Cameron McDonald 13. Rfn Vereimi Qorowale 12. Capt Giles Bromley-Martin 11. Sgt Connor O’Reilly 10. Bdr Owain Davies 9. 2Lt Alexander Gliksten 1. Sgt Nathanael Titchard-Jones 2. Bdr Peter Austin 2. Sgt Gareth Smith 4. LBdr Josaia Visei 5. LCpl Koroinivuku Vereti 6. Capt Stu Cross (C) 7. Capt Samuel Ackers 8. Gnr Senitiki Nayalo

16. LCpl Epeli Kotobalavu 17. LCpl Stephen Jenkinson 18. Bdr Scott Westwood 19. Pte Viliame Kotobalavu 20. LCpl Ifereimi Boladau 21. Spr Michael McDonald 22. Spr Jack Johnson 23. 2Lt Frank Kelly

ROYAL NAVY MEN: 39

TRIES: 3 (Raumakita 40’, Rutter 44’, Hayler 60’)

CONVERSIONS 3 (Gott 40’, 44’, 60’)

PENALTIES: 6 (Gott 3’, 12’, 19’, 33’, 39’, 57’)

DROP GOALS: 0

YELLOW CARDS: 0

RED CARDS: 0

15. MNE Craig Duncan 14. AET Jerome Rudder 13. Surg Lt Henry Hughes RN 12. MNE Setareki Raumakita 11. POAET Ben Chambers 10. AET Jordan Gott 9. AET Dan Rutter 1. POAET Kye Beasley 2. MNE Rhys Williams 3. LA(AH) Ben Watson 4. Lt Ryan Boulton RN 5. Cpl Edd Pascoe 6. AB(Logs) Sam Matavesi 7. Capt Jarrard Hayler RM (Captain) 8. Cpl Ratu Vakalutukali

16. CSgt Gaz Evans 17. ETME Dom Cleverley 18. MNE Toby Papp 19. Lt Mitchell Spencer 20. MNE Will Scott 21. LAET Sam Carter 22. AB(AWW) Jake Hanley 23. MNE Henry Gliddon

Babcock Player of the Match for the Elliot Brown Watch: Jordan Gott

Match Attendance: 51,859