Soldiers first, sportsmen second is the motto of the Army team but for 80 glorious minutes at Twickenham on Saturday they were able to enjoy their rugby as they recaptured the Babcock Trophy in front of a phenomenal 81,577 crowd at Twickenham.
In addition to claiming the silverware and winning the 100th-anniversary match between the pair, it was the Army’s first victory against their marine counterparts since 2014.
A match between two amateur sides might be regarded as an irrelevancy in the professional era, but it remains the focus of the services sporting calendar with over 80,000 people travelling to South-West London.
Fallen comrades and absent colleagues were honoured with a poignant minute’s applause before kick-off.
The Army took the lead after 12 minutes as Lance Corporal James Dixon comfortably slotted a penalty from in front of the posts.
The first try soon followed as magic footwork from England international, Lance Corporal Semesa Rookodugini put winger Private Junior Bulumakau over in the corner, but Dixon couldn’t add the tough touchline conversion.
Back came the navy though with Leading Aircraft Engineering Technician Jonathon Humphrey getting them on the scoreboard with a three-pointer, 8-3.
Fly-half Dixon nevertheless edged the Army back into an eight-point lead with the only other points of the opening 40, slotting his second penalty on the half-hour as Navy scrum-half Gareth Rees found himself sent to the sin bin, 11-3.
— Stuart Robinson (@LeglessRobbo) April 29, 2017
The Army made the perfect start to the second half with good hands getting scrum-half Sergeant Thomas Chennell in the corner to score.
However, the Navy weren’t just going to give in and battled back strongly with Leading Physical Trainer Benjamin Priddey powering over for their opening try.
Scrum-half Rees then added the conversion to decrease the deficit to just six points, 16-10.
But a magical offload from Rokoduguni reestablished the Army’s healthy lead as the Fijian-born speedster slipped in Bulumakau in for his second try.
Rokoduguni dummies and sidesteps for a nice run from back deep.
— The Rugby Channel (@TheRugbyChannel) April 29, 2017
Dixon then added the tough conversion before slotting two more penalties to build an unassailable 19-point advantage.
But in the spirit of the day, the Royal Navy weren’t going to throw in the towel and got two late consolation tries as Marine Seta Raumakita and Dave Fairbrother both forced their way over, 29-20.