Army V’s Navy Rugby – Twickenham Stadium. Gladiators READY!




GLADIATOR.. it’s one of my favourite movies.. and seemingly a recurring theme in my life.

I never thought I had a “type”, all the men that have come and gone in my life have been pretty individual both in looks and personality, but now, as I approach that stage in all areas of my life where I’m truly ‘honing in’ on who I am and what makes me tick I’m starting to see a pattern – every guy has had a touch of the “Gladiator” about them. Athletecism, power, strength, drive, leadership, a need to compete, to win – but mostly the ability to crush my tiny fragile body with a bear hug if they (or I) so wished.

I fell in love with rowing for that reason. It’s not just eight men rowing a boat, it’s eight men pushing their bodies to the limit. As graceful as it looks from afar, every race is a gladatorial feat of both teamwork and single minded determination. Lungs are burning, muscles are tearing and minds are fiercely focussed. Heaving the oars back, much akin to a boat full of Vikings, rowing to war. It’s positively primative. Ever heard an American cox roaring at his crew? Terrifying sound!

I never thought I’d find another sport to capture my heart and imagination like that does. That was until Saturday afternoon at Twickenham Stadium.

I’d heard about the Army V’s Navy Rugby match through an ex, a Captain in the Royal Tank Regiment. We’d bonded over our love of rowing initially.. then running.. then eventually he introduced me to the sport of Rugby. “You’ll love it” he used to say enthusiastically, “huge, hulking, ripped men, grappling each other in a gladatorial fight over a ball”.

“Sounds a bit gay to me” I would reply.

But I made a note in the diary none-the-less for Army V’s Navy 2013 and when tickets came on sale I rounded up the girls. This would be right up their street!

As we approached the stadium, in a sea of men, women and children, like bees to a hive, the excitement kicked in. It stood like a mighty colluseum, towering over us and the noise of the crowd within suggested that the fight had already started.

After climbing the 6 flights of stairs (yes 6) and then waited 10 mins for Ashleigh to catch up in her heels we made our way to the top tier and our seats, in amongst the throng, the “mob”, the battle unfolding below us. Red for Army, Blue for Navy, wrestling in a pantheon of green.

Thighs like molten metal, pumping down the pitch, grappling each other like giant bears. If I was a single gal still.. well!

“Who are we supporting?” the girls beamed at me. “Army of course!” was the reply.

I’ve never been to a “live” match of any kind before. The closest I’ve gotten to competative sport is watching my dad race stock cars, and of course, watching rowing. I watch England play football religiously when on, more out of a sense of patriotism than a love of the game, but I find the matches slow and boring mostly. A man kicks a ball to another man, who kicks it away from the goal, who kicks it to another man, who kicks it to the wrong team, who then falls over and rolls around on the floor holding his head whilst the game stops for what seems like half an hour. He then suddenly gets up as if nothing is wrong and they continue to play and collect their massive pay-check at the end of it. It seems a bit soul-less to me. But it’s my country, so I watch.

I expected to watch the Rugby with the same vague interest. How wrong I was. The atmosphere was positively electric. As if adrenaline was in the air. The game was brutal.. and fast. If someone fell over, the game continued, even with the medics on the pitch. As the Army ran down the pitch with the ball towards the line the crowd would roar. I found myself standing up, leaning forward, screaming, screaming, screaming “OMG.. they’re gonna.. AAAARGH!” A huge pile up of massive sweaty bodies and hopes of a point are scuppered. I watched the pile intently waiting for the ball to re-appear then.. ROOOOOOAAAR of the crowd again, Army have scored!!? It’s that fast that whilst you’re watching the scrum, someones got the ball out and run to the touch-line (excuse me if I’m not using the right terms here).

There’s a free kick.. and the ball soars over the goal post, another roar, more points. A “throw in” (maybe that’s a football term) and the Army pick up one of their players and thrown him in the air, as gracefully as a ballerina to catch the ball.

Before we know it, it’s half time, it’s level, 19:19, and just as quickly the players are back on the pitch, playing in the other direction. Navy gets the ball and run towards their end.. I hear the girls screaming them on. “You know that they’ve changed ends right? That’s the Navy you’re cheering?”. “Yes.. we’ve just discussed it, we’re sorry, but Navy are hotter, we’re supporting them now”. I studied the players. I had to agree actually, but stuck to my guns. Army all the way.

Any Army took it. Royal Navy 26 – Army 43.

As we left the stadium the crowds buzzed. I had anticipated trouble.. 72000 spectators, a record at Twickenham for an Amateur match. But no, everyone was in high spirits, not a single bit of bother. Not a single shouting yob. It seems the old saying is true..

Rugby is a gentlemans sport.

And ooooh.. us girlies do love a gentleman!