Army vs Navy Rugby Game

Army vs Navy Rugby Mens Games at Twickenham

I won the opportunity to photograph two rugby games at Twickenham with thanks to Photoshelter. I host my images on their website and they often do regular summits in the USA where they get amazing photographers to share their workflow and photographs. This time they did one for UK/Europe, a lot of information was presented in various seminars.

So around 3-4 weeks before the Army and Navy rugby games which consists of 2 games one for the men and one for the ladies from their respective Army or Navy forces of the British Armed Forces. I was told I won this amazing prize and I had to be free on May 13th for the whole day. Luckily I live about 30 minutes by bus from Twickenham.

I had never photographed rugby before as I usually photograph other sports e.g. Sailing, windsurfer, Zap Cats. This was going to be a new experience for me. With all the relevant paperwork done for the press pass, we all met up at a local cafe to chat and be briefed for the day’s events.

Then we headed over to the stadium which I have seen many times from the outside, but never inside, we headed through security to the press room. It was here where we were told what we can and cannot do during a game and areas we were assigned.

Then the two newbies myself and another photographer were taken on a small tour of the grounds and as we entered the pitch area, the size of the place with the stands, pitch and supporters filling up the seats. The view took me by a little by surprise as despite seeing it on TV, actually being just a few meters away from the pitch/stands was a little disorienting to say the least. By now the party I was supposed to be with were at least 10 steps ahead of me, I walked fast to catch up.

Still drinking in the atmosphere of the whole set up, I was shown where I could stand and where I could not. Once I got that everything came into perspective.

So the game was not for another 90 minutes, so time to chat to the other photographers and have a discussion with Geraint of Align Photography as to what he wanted from me during the day. He did give me a brief, but as I am a newbie and probably not doing this full time, I was given some creative freedom to photograph the emotions of the crowd and players throughout the game. Plus of course, any action that I see comes my way.

This was all a bit daunting having instructions from someone in charge of a 9-man operation. I am usually a lone wolf so to speak and photograph what I want to photograph. However, Align Images has numerous clients that have needs and uses the photography he and his team produces. The regular photographers know what he needs and they get it. I was an extra for the day.

Match Time

With the Army and Navy Match, there is a ceremony where flags are display the band from one of the forces plays and the team as the armed forces are steeped in traditions this is just one of them.

That over they head to their respective end and start playing. What I noticed for most of the first half the way the rugby is played most of the action is played on the opposite side of the field. I was using a short lens 18-140 and would not impact on any tackles on that side of the pitch. Play did eventually come over towards me, which was great and snapped away hopefully capturing the action at its peak.

As time went on I learnt how they played and started to anticipate where the next tackle, kick or line out for a throw in was going to be. Mind you I was not always correct. The half time came and there was approx 10-12 minutes between, well enough time to have a quick look at some images in the press room. As I scanned them in via Photo mechanic I was getting quite excited as they were in focus and did capture the action as I had wanted to do. I sent some rough ones off to be released if good enough.

What I have not mentioned is I suffer from FND which is Functional Neurological Disorder, in short, I can spasm, fall down, have difficulty walking and a whole host of other things like pain in the legs 24/7, plus the additional tiredness. I was wondering how this was going to affect me during the day, will my legs hold out, will the pain be too much and I had to stop.

So far for around a few hours in the stadium I was OK with walking, so lets go to the 2ndhalf, now as they change ends at half time I was able to get closer to the action as it was on my side of the pitch which was great for me. Almost got hit by the rugby ball a few times, but had to duck out of the way and move quite swiftly.

The game was exciting as I had thought it was, however, the other team member was very animated and offered plenty of opportunities to take seat side reactions to tries, and goals as well as giving their respective teams a needed boost with cheers from them and the crowd behind them.

Trying to keep track of the player playing rugby was hard enough then you get the crowd going wild when they win a point, etc. You need to have eyes in the back of your head to try and capture the action of the crowds and I found when I was looking for animated fans, and of they saw my camera lens pointing towards them. They sort of posed a little more typically cheering on the relevant team and smiling in the process.

Full-time in the Mens Game the Navy won (39-22) Army for the first time in 13 years and I was told to watch the crowd when they got the medals, trophies and them celebrating the win. The whole crowd was electric and plenty of opportunity to take candid shots of hugs, and celebrations all around the Navy seating area.

So a quick medal ceremony and few photos opportunity and then the Women’s team started to warm up, just enough time to head back and upload some images.

Women’s Game Army vs Navy

The women played differently to the men as they were generally shorter than the men they looked a lot smaller in the lens as I started to capture the action. When the men went into a tackle it was hard and fast and straight to the ground most of the time. What I noticed that the women were a lot softer when doing a tackle, it could just be down to their small build as they will weigh less than the men. So the tackles were just has hard with grit and determination to get the ball and score for their side.

What I saw there was a lot more shirt pulling or grabbing onto to take a person down. However the Army this time dominated play in both half of the match. However, still a very exciting game to have to watch and photograph. Again play started toward the other side of the pitch for the 1st half and was more difficult to photograph until halftime when they changed ends.

Some of the action was just a few meters away from me, and filled the frame of the camera and tackles, throw outs only lasted a few seconds, and as soon as I lost sight of the ball that play was over. I think the women were quicker in getting the ball away from the scrum and throw-outs than the men, but thats just my opinion. I would have to watch a lot more games and ask people who know how they play if that is true.

So this time the Army won (67-5) The celebrations were there especially as a lot of their families and children were involved with their mum, as they were handed over the barriers from other family members to celebrate with mum.

There was amazing faces all round as they headed up for the medals and trophy. The to the final photos opportunity the whole team and the winning cups we headed towards the tunnel and all was jubilant. Amazing atmosphere.

Now after 2 x 80-minute games and getting up early, I was getting tired and after a few final shots of the celebrations I headed back to the press room, to discuss the day’s activities.

At the end of the day, I was still full of adrenaline and I believe that is why my FND did not kick in or was painful until I relaxed at home that evening and yes my legs ached and body hurt a lot. However with FND that is to be expected as I have done similar days when I am on the go all day. The next day and maybe a 2nd day I need to rest, however, everyone with FND has similar symptoms to this.

As regards the photo equipment that I now need, a 2nd body with a couple of different lenses plus a 80-400 as well. I have plans for some other Games that are happening later this year. The Blind Games in Birmingham in August and hopefully the Invitcus Games in German in September. So I now know what extra items I need to take my sports photography to the next level and beyond. However, I will do small steps until I get used to a new camera body or lens combination before I need to do it for real to get those amazing images I see in the sports world. I even got to play with a 400mm F2.8 lens on the day, however, this on the sidelines was a little too much to follow the action due to the narrow field of view. Yes I got some shots, but you really need to practice with this lens before a game as I just could not get used to it. I learnt a lot from the guys and Geraint of Align Photography. In short, I took some amazing shots for me on my first rugby game which will improve if I do some more rugby photography. Who knows what the future holds for me. The whole day’s experience with Align Photography and Photoshelter who organised this for me. Thank you, it is a day I will not forget for a long time if ever.

There will be a 2ndpost on disability access and people who are disabled enjoying the game and the referee in the men’s game was in a wheelchair and he officiated from the sidelines. Who said disabled people cannot have fun?


Mens Game Photo more on my website:

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