After a successful civilian competition The Navy were more than up for the game and looking to end the Army’s reign.
The Army quickly got into their stride through some great attacking play directed by hooker LCpl Kareena Brookes. She directed play expertly around the rucks and was able to send Cpl Bani crashing over the line for the Army’s first try. The Navy however did not put their heads down and came back strong and would have had a quick reply if it wasn’t for strong a strong defensive effort from skipper Bdr Katie Garside
who worked tirelessly all afternoon. Quick play of the balls got the Army some good field position and fast thinking from Cpl Sarah Roper enabled her to spread the ball wide to LCpl Caz Roberts who hit the ball at pace and was unstoppable on her way over the try line.
Again The Navy refused to lie down and bombarded The Army line with strong runners all over the park. Pte Taz Ball ran the ball back well to relieve some of the pressure with a mazy run evading at least 6 Navy players before being brought down 20 metres from the Navy try line. The Army started to become their own worst enemy by making constant mistakes and unforced errors. The Navy were able to gain some momentum and found their way over the Army line after back to back sets deep in The Army half. They added the conversion which gave only a slender lead to the Army going into half time. Just before the break the Army lost hooker LCpl Kareena Brookes to a serious looking ankle injury and Cpl Akasini to a dislocated shoulder. This was just two examples of the physicality of the game.
The second half began as the first had ended with wave upon wave of Navy attacking. The try before half time had given the Navy a massive boost and having lost two players through injury the Army girls were unable to rest. The Navy’s constant pressure led to another try to give the Navy the lead. The Army tried to come back and despite hard, dynamic running from Sgt Lisa Joseph, Pte Shelley-Anne Magic and Cfn Stacey Gomez were unable to break the solid Navy defence down. The Navy soaked up the pressure from the Army and scored another try in the corner after more mistakes from The Army’s attacking line.
The Army were desperate not to let their crown slip away and this was the wakeup call they needed. They kicked off and with 20 minutes left on the clock and scoreboard at 14-8 against them they needed a spark. This was helped with the defensive efforts of Cpl Rae Metters, Capt Kelly Douglas and Capt Alex Coxon who refused to let The Navy advance and eventually forced the mistake they were hunting for. The half back pairing of Cpl Sarah Hudson and Cpl Sarah Roper finally clicked and they started to attack the Navy line creating huge holes everywhere for the backline to exploit. Cpl Bani was the first to take advantage of Cpl Hudson’s vision charging over the line leaving a pile of Navy bodies in her wake. LCpl Caz Roberts brilliantly converted to level the scores and the Army finally had a reason to lift their heads again. The introduction of Cpl Nancy Kuva
added a fresh energy into the Army attack as they went hunting for the Navy line again. Capt Kelly Douglas had been a threat all afternoon and her strong running opened a gap for Cpl JoJo Joubert who still had a lot to do but found her way to the line with great footwork and strength. LCpl Caz Roberts added the extras again to give the Army the lead.
The Navy were beginning to tire but were not out of the competition. Their heads did drop though when straight from the restart they kicked to Cpl Sarah Hudson, who ran the ball straight back at them bursting through the line and outpaced the defence on her way for a well deserved try. Another conversion from LCpl Roberts eased the Army’s nerves and Head coach WO2 Jase Grants blood pressure as the ladies were finally playing the rugby they were capable of. The Army still had more rugby to play and as Cpl Roper had the Navy guessing her next move again released LCpl Roberts who added to her growing points tally in clinical fashion. The last say of the game though was to be from the player of the match. After great running down the centre of the field by Pte Nayacatabu, Cpl Bani took advantage of a tiring Navy defence by running an undefendable line and sprinted her way 60 metres to the line fending off opponents on the way and was able to finish despite pressure from the fullback to score her hat-trick. LCpl Roberts took her personal tally to 14 points with another conversion to seal a dramatic victory for The Army.
The Army had been made to work for every single point in this game with their fitness and cool heads proving to be the edge on a much improved Navy side. The Army ladies showed great character and fight to come from behind when clearly on the back foot and under severe pressure at times. This was a harsh reminder that the Navy are constantly improving and will be no push over in the fight for the Inter Services crown. After the match the Army ladies were presented Caps for the first time in the history of Army Rugby League and each cap was fully deserved. This was just another indication that women’s Rugby league is vastly on the rise. Army sponsors Saab were on hand to present the award for Army Women’s Player of the Year to Cpl Bani, which she thoroughly deserved although a number of candidates were looked upon. Another season and another Inter Services crown for the Army Women. One that they were made to work all the way for but undoubtedly deserved.