Army Men break Navy Men 37 to 19

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Army won the match, 37 – 19, reclaiming the Wing Commander John Caldwell Shield, awarded to the champion men’s team, which was won by Navy, last year. This is the third time across the past five years, Army has won the title.

Similar to the women’s match, it was always going to be a big ask for Navy to upset Army, taking into account Army’s 71 – 0 defeat of Air Force on Wednesday. Navy had earlier defeated Air Force 43 – 3, so they certainly were not out of contention, but the bookies had Army odds-on favourites to win by a healthy margin. Experienced campaigners had heard the same talk back in 2011, under almost identifical circumstances. That year, Navy achieved a remarkable 3-point upset win against the more fancied Army side, 25 – 22. Unfortunately, they could not deliver a repeat performance in 2015.

Army opened the scoring, 4 minutes into match with a try to in-form centre, Blake Hart, following excellent support play by Army’s highly mobile and effective backrow, initially out wide, then in centre field, within Army’s attacking 22m zone. The try was converted by Army five eight, Craig Rogerson. There was a sense in the crowd, this quick start might be a sign of things to come, but Navy had other ideas. The next 10 minutes saw both teams battle for possession and territory, and it was Navy which scored next, courtesy of good build up play in their attacking 22m zone. Navy fullback, Daryl Seden, dismissed outside defenders, and scored a well deserved try. Damien House, Navy’s five eight, was successful with the conversion, levelling the score, 7 – 7. Army gradually moved ahead 13 - 7 over the next 15 mins, scoring two penalty goals, courtesy of Craig Rogerson. At the 31 minute mark, Army no.8 and captain, Luke Miles, scored an excellent backrower’s try under the posts, having received the ball on the 22m line from fellow backrower, Siaka King, then evading two tackles. Craig Rogerson made no mistake with the conversion, and Army went into the half time break leading, 20 – 7.

Army could have been leading by more at the break. Army winger, Josh Gray, was probably unlucky not to be awarded a penalty try, after an excellent sideline kick and chase from the halfway line. He tackled the Navy ball receiver in Army’s attacking 22m zone, driving him to ground 5m out from Army’s try line, with no other defenders in front of him. He got to his feet, attempted to pick up the ball, but was charged from behind, immediately in the vicinity of the tackle area, and knocked the ball on. Some might argue the Navy player infringed, as per Law 15.6 (g) on page 100 of the World Rugby Laws of the Game for 2015 – go on, google it. Army was unlucky to miss another try scoring opportunity in the first half, this time courtesy of their own error. Army was awarded a scrum just out from their try line, the ball was cleared by the halfback, but it was knocked on, with a relatively easy overlap, out wide.

Army certainly didn’t have it all their own way during the first half. Navy opted to play a predominantly tight game, keeping the ball amonsgt the forwards for extended phases of play, which proved effective. Their backrow, especially Will Solway at no.8 and Josh Friend at blindside flanker, were highly visible, in attack and defence. Will Solway’s bulk and powerful ball running, in particular, proved more than a handful for Army. Another positive was Navy’s lineout, which was more structured and successful than Army’s often disorganised lineout. Not to be outdone, Navy’s backs were also prepared to take risks, boldly running the ball out from their defending 22m zone.

The key statistics from the first half – penetrations into attacking 22m zone and penalties – favoured Army, but not by much. Army advanced into their attacking 22m zone on at least five occasions, versus three occasions for Navy. The penalty count was 7 – 4, Army’s way. Army received three penalties late in the first half, which served to stem the tide of any momentum underway by Navy.

The second half saw Navy take initial control, delivering sustained pressure inside their attacking 22m zone. Their first charge at the try line was held up, and a scrum was awarded. Navy no.8, Will Solway, was successful with his team’s next attempt, barging across the line near the posts, with several Army defenders hanging off him, following a quick tap from a close range free kick. Navy winger, Dwight Shepherd, added the conversion, closing the gap to 20 – 14, still in favour of Army.
It took Army about 10 minutes to penetrate their attacking 22m zone in the second half, but they lost possession. On their second attempt, Army was awarded a penalty 5m out from the try line. Good initiative by Army halfback, Tony Luxford, saw him take a quick tap. The ball made its way to Army winger, Jackson Pearson, who busted two tackles and scored a well deserved try. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful. Army’s lead was now 25 – 14.

Army was next to score, this time courtesy of excellent break out play, 5m from their defending goal line. Army no. 8, Luke Miles, took the ball from the base of the scrum, making at least 15m before he was tackled in the vicinity of the 22m line. Four phases of play later, Army five eight, Craig Rogerson, received the ball, still inside Army’s defending 22m zone. He ran right, making ground to the 10m line, then offloaded to Army winger, Josh Gray, who gained another 20m, before returning the ball to Rogerson. Navy defenders attempted to tackle Rogerson, but he somehow slipped a pass back to Gray near the 22m line, who skirted away untouched, to score an outstanding team try. Rogerson then converted the try, taking Army’s lead out to 32 – 14.

A short while later, at the 28 minute mark of the second half, Army executed another fine piece of break out play from their defending 22m zone, after Navy lost possession in attack. Army winger, Jackson Pearson, received the ball in the vicinity of Army’s defending 5m line, then dashed down the side line, gaining about 30m. He passed the ball inside to Army fullback, Jared Lewthwaite, near the 10m line, who evaded a couple of tackles, bringing the ball back into centre field. Lewthwaite linked up with Army centre, Blake Hart, close to the half way line, allowing Hart to sprint away, scoring Army’s final try, out wide. The score now was 37 – 14.

Unfortunately for Navy, those two Army tries occurred while Navy flanker, Josh Friend, was taking an enforced 10 minute break on the sideline.

The match concluded with Navy having the final say of the day, after another period of sustained pressure inside their attacking 22m zone. Repeated team infringements by Army saw their prop, Scott Ashurst, receive a yellow card. Navy capitalised on this, scoring a converted try 3 minutes from full time, narrowing the end result to 37 – 19.

Army outscored Navy in the second half, three tries to two, courtesy of two superb, long range raids, but interestingly, Navy had more penetrations into their attacking 22m zone, 6 – 4, and the penalty count also favoured them, 9 – 4. At the end of the day, the main differences over the course of the match appeared to be fitness and endurance, especially in the forwards, and tactical patience and skill; both in favour of Army.

Player of the match, as determined by ASRU coaching staff, was Army no.8 and captain, Luke Miles. Luke continued his impressive form from Wednesday’s match against Air Force, where he was also player of the match. His mobility, work rate, and overall influence were first rate. Other notable performances for Army were Siaka King at flanker, Craig Rogerson at five eight, and Josh Gray and Jackson Pearson on the wings. Will Solway and Josh Friend were Navy’s top performers.

Army – Blake Hart, centre (2 tries); Luke Miles, no.8 (1 try), Josh Gray, wing (1 try); Jackson Pearson, wing (1 try); Craig Rogerson, five eight (3 conversions, 2 penalty goals).
Navy – Daryl Seden, fullback (1 try); Will Solway, no.8 (1 try); Apete Turuva, no.19 (1 try); Damien House, five eight (1 conversion); Dwight Shepherd, wing (1 conversion).

Best player points:
Luke Miles, Army no.8 (3), Will Solway, Navy no.8 (2), Siaka King, Army no.7 (1)

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