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Report: Army Sink Navy To Hand RAF Title

The Army have beaten the Royal Navy 36-18 to hand the RAF their first inter-services title in 21 years...

The Army have beaten the Royal Navy 36-18 to hand the RAF their first inter-services title in 21 years.

It was just reward for the Royal Air Force, who shocked the forces rugby world not once, but twice, in securing a comeback draw against the Navy before stunning the Army with a historic 33-29 victory at Aldershot.

The match, held before 81,116 spectators at a sold-out Twickenham stadium, ended in disappointment for the Navy, who knew that a win by five points or more over their old rivals would see them crowned inter-services champions.

The opening few minutes saw both sides opting to kick for post from penalties, keen to get points on the scoreboard in a sign of respect for the opposition. At 3-3, one Navy shot at goal kick-started the game, deflecting back off the post into Army territory.

The well-organised Army side scrambled to clear their lines before winning a scrum on the edge of their try line, a cool response to early pressure. 

The reds continued to show their dominance in set-plays, securing lineouts to climb back up towards the halfway line, prompting a change of tack from the Navy, who began testing the Army outside-backs under the high ball. But all this would result in was the first of many exciting breaks from the Army no. 11, Private Jonasa Bulumakau.

Army-Navy rugby 2015 line-ups

The winger ran the ball back with interest, and had attempted a chip-and-chase to score before Cpl Dave Fairbrother's cynical shoulder charge removed any 'chase' element from Bulumakau's exploits. The Navy lock was awarded a yellow card and the Army's lethal fullback LBdr Owain Davies was now within kicking range. He duly put the reds 6-3 ahead.

The Navy's aggression helped them to win them any loose ball, but loose handling meant they were unable to go through the phases in the backs. Once again, the blues kicked in attacking positions – but Davies proved to be more than a sturdy boot in this contest and mopped up any ball from behind Army lines, eventually kicking his team to 9-3.

The reds' confidence in retaining the ball at the breakdown was then displayed as second row Lt William Jones joined the back line to bound over for his first of the day.

The Navy responded quickly. Fairbrother's return from the sin-bin proved to be the difference, as prop OC Josh Terry crashed over following an extremely strong attacking scrum. Jon Humphrey then converted to take the match to 14-10, but after some dramatic hits it was once again Army lock Jones who helped to outnumber a ferocious but scattered blue defence, putting the Army up 21-10 at the interval.

Army-Navy rugby 2015

The second half started similarly to the first, both sides kicking penalties to reach 24-13, but 50 minutes into the game the crowd were treated to an Army assault from their own 10-metre line, through Bath and England wing LCpl Semesa Rokoduguni.

The Army’s powerhouse ran a line that matched his status on the world stage, but could not be matched by the Royal Navy backs, beating everybody for pace and steaming over for a special score. 

However, it was the performance of the red’s left wing, Bulumakau, which eclipsed that of the rest on the field. Army fly-half Pte Jack Prasad's last act before being sin-binned was to orchestrate a fine attack which utilised man of the match Bulumakau’s pace for a simple score. With the score at 36-13, the Navy continued to press for 15 minutes. 

Fresh substitutes for the blues struggled to break through an Army defence in the backs, before hooker and captain LA(AH) Ben Priddey took the direct route to score on the fringes of the breakdown – capturing the heart of his side with a strong final charge over the line. 

Army-Navy rugby 2015

Though victory for the reds ultimately led to a historic inter-services championship win for the Royal Air Force, the unique spirit of the clash once again highlighted the enduring values of British Rugby that have survived its professional transition.

Click here if you'd like to take a look at our gallery of some of the best photos from the day and the match itself...