On 23 May, the 2015 Australian Services Rugby Championship was secured by Army for both senior men’s and women’s teams, but not before hard earned victories against their Royal Australian Navy rivals.
After solid victories by Navy against Air Force earlier in the championships, Navy were unable to retain their 2014 senior men’s title, nor did the women’s team defeat a strong Army outfit. As expected however, both games were hotly contested with an abundance of talent on both sides, leading to 22 Navy players being selected for the Australian Services sides.
The Navy women’s team ran on to the field with great enthusiasm and ever increasing confidence levels hoping to make amends for the loss last year. The Army had Navy quickly on the back foot as they blasted into attack scoring an early try. Navy worked hard on implementing their defensive plan, disrupting the Army’s attacking play, but unfortunately, inexperience resulted in giving away easy penalties which allowed Army to obtain field possession and points. Despite Army enjoying the percentage of possession, a spirited Navy defence forced Army to take a penalty goal rather than press for a try. At half time Army had posted a 15-0 lead, with Navy still very much in the game.
Navy commenced the second half with only 14 players following a ‘sin bin’ indiscretion just prior to half time. Army capitalised and was quick to post more points with the score 32-0 after 16 minutes. Navy were rewarded for effort with two tries, one from Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain Renae Woodward converted by Able Seaman Communication Information Systems Vika Pinomi, and another to Able Seaman Maritime Logistics – Supply Chain Saluluelanei Gray. Navy showed great determination and teamwork to contest a side described as one of Army's best in years. The final score was 37-12, demonstrating Navy’s solid progression towards challenging Army’s dominance of women’s services rugby over the recent decades.
Navy Women’s Coach Lieutenant Commander Amanda Folkes said that she was proud of the team.
"They demonstrated their resolve to the end and despite the result managed to threaten Army’s run of play in the second half," she said.
Player of the Tournament and Navy Rugby's Best and Fairest was awrded to Able Seaman Saluluelanei Gray.
The Navy men's team ran out looking to earn their first back to back titles since 1999/2000; unfortunately it was not to be.
From the kick off, with a good breeze at their back, Army were able to gain field position and score in the fourth minute. In reply, Navy took it to the opposition with some solid forward play linking several long phases together and applying plenty of pressure. Navy’s skilful backs spread the ball wide to equalize with a try to Leading Seaman Marine Technician Daryl Seden. Unfortunately this would be the last points posted by Navy in the first half as Army gained the upper hand, scoring two penalties and a converted try to take a 20-7 lead into the break.
With the second half underway, the Navy men set to close the gap and control possession. Again, through dominant forward play, Navy was able to drive Army back deep inside their territory resulting in another try to Navy early in the half by Able Seaman Electronics Technician Will Solway. Despite the resurgence, over the next 15 minutes Army would respond by scoring three unanswered tries to lead Navy 37-14 with just 13 minutes remaining.
With a big challenge ahead, Navy gave everything to get back into the game. Through a combination of small but costly errors and some unlucky calls Navy were not able to score again until Seaman Maritime Logistics - Chef Apete Turuva crossed in the 77th minute. Despite the game being out of reach, Navy stood tall and battled into injury time in an effort to narrow the margin and remind Army of their resolve.
The final score was 37-19 with tries to Able Seaman Solway, Leading Seaman Seden and Seaman Turuva; conversions to Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Damien House and Electronics Technician Dwight Shepherd.
Coach Petty Officer Electronics Technician Julius Tadulala said he was hopeful for a win, even with a challenging scoreline at the main break.
"With the half time score 20-7, we believed we very much still in the game and that we could come home strong with the wind behind us," Petty Officer Tadulala said.
"We had to play with more patience and composure than we demonstrated in the first ten minutes.
"Unfortunately two more tries against the run of play did not help our cause but to the team’s credit they never gave up until the full time whistle," he said.
Leading Seaman Solway who scored Navy's first try and was later awarded Navy Men's Rugby Best and Fairest, said it was a tough day on the paddock.
"We’re gutted not to get the win but I know the boys will be back, hungry to make amends next year."
Earlier in the day, the Navy Old Salts (over 35s) squared off against the Army Old Boys (Leopards) in a game that saw players defying their age.
Navy came away victorious 20-15 against the Leopards. The highlight of the match when Angus McLean, representing his father Leading Seaman Cook Chris 'Chops' McLean, who passed in 2009 following a head injury sustained playing club rugby scored the winning try for Navy. Chops McLean represented Navy in Rugby during the late 1990s. The Navy Old Salts were honoured to take to the field with his son Angus.
Following the games, the Australian Services Rugby Union function was held where the following players were selected for respective combined service squads:
Able Seaman Aaron Loudon
Able Seaman Alex Brown
Able Seaman Will Solway
Leading Seaman Damien House
Leading Seaman Shayne O'Reilly
Leading Seaman Brad Thomas
Leading Seaman Daryl Seden
Leading Seaman Dwight Shepherd
Sub Lieutenant Josh Friend
Sub Lieutenant Zeb Learoyd
Lieutenant Amy Brauns
Able Seaman Saluleulanei Gray
Seaman Franceen Ketchell
Able Seaman Esha Nona
Petty Officer Nicolle Palmer
Lieutenant Ashleigh Payne
Sub Lieutenant Eve Parker
Able Seaman Vika Pinomi
Leading Seaman Kerryn Seaborn
Able Seaman Melissa Sirret
Able Seaman Carissa Thompson
Petty Officer Renae Woodward
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