HMS Albion’s Lions rugby team showed grit and determination as they lifted the historic 1887 Challenge Cup after defeating Singapore’s national champions 20-16.
The Lions, made up of Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines from Plymouth-based warship HMS Albion, were welcomed by Singapore Cricket Club Select XV and edged a tight encounter with Albion’s Commanding Officer Captain Tim Neild hailing the team’s battling display in the Asian city-state.
He said: “Grit, determination and team spirit were evident throughout the match, and are characteristics I hold dear. I am immensely proud of the tenacity demonstrated by my sailors and Royal Marines. It is something I see every day in the ship’s company of HMS Albion.”
HMS Albion is alongside in Singapore as part of a nine-month deployment to the Asia Pacific region. They have been taking part in major military exercises far away from home, but still find the time to enjoy sports matches in the countries they visit.
Able Seaman Ollie Newborn, 24, from Hull, put in a man of the match performance, making a sensational run for the opening try and revealed he was always confident Lions would prevail.
He said: “I didn’t think when the ball came to me, I just went. That is my job on the wing. I felt ecstatic scoring the try. It was a team effort that I just happened to be on the end of.
“The game was a cracking occasion for both the Royal Navy and Singapore Cricket Club. Training as a squad and the game gave a big boost to morale for me.
“To play rugby with your workmates is just great. I believed that we would win from the kick off and I look forward to playing for HMS Albion in the future.”
Lions played in Cyprus, Japan and Vietnam in the lead up to this game as well as training in Albion’s well dock (a vast deck inside HMS Albion which can be flooded with water when launching amphibious operations).
The team’s manager, Petty Officer Personal Trainer Jamie Buttle, 38, from Rotherham, was delighted the hard work paid off.
“The win was a triumph of graft in training that started in the ship’s well dock and continued across Japan and Vietnam,” he said. “The game was hard fought throughout. The levels of fitness, particularly in the heat, paid off in the last 20 minutes.”
This was the first time the Challenge Cup had been contested in more than half a century.
The Challenge Cup was presented to Singapore Cricket Club in 1887, showing the Royal Navy’s gratitude for use of their famous Padang sports ground.
However, it vanished for many years before being rediscovered in 1991.