In what is an extremely important season for Cyprus Rugby, another milestone was reached with its first pre-season friendly game against a club that has provided us much support over the last year, Enfield Ignatians. With limited resources, 17 players met at the North London Club for a match that would allow Head Coach Paul Shanks an opportunity to see some new players, as well as fringe players, at the same time as trying to raise the profile of the team in the heart of the UK Cypriot community.
With experienced players providing the spine of the team, debutantes Anton Savva, George Shaouna and brothers Alex and Theo Philiotis settled in well at the training session immediately before that game. Within minutes of kick off the Cyprus XV had soon realised they were in for a game with the majority of territory and possession going in favour of the home side. Thankfully the Cyprus defence was able to hold off the frequent Enfield attacks and it was against the run of the game that Cyprus were able to cross the try line with inside centre Dan Thrasivoulou going over for the first score of the game. The game continued to go in favour of the home side and with the injury to No 8 Billy Cosma, the limited capacity of the replacements had taken a massive step backwards. Billy had made a significant contribution in both attack and defence and his retirement from the game had exhausted any flexibility in the forward pack, he was replaced by Alex Philiotis who continued to work tirelessly in defence for the rest of the game.
With a rethink to the tactics, the Cypriots started the second half with renewed vigour. However, a good counter attack from a poorly placed clearance kick allowed Enfield to go over in the corner, with the conversion following; the tables had turned with the home side leading 7-5. This score spurred the Cypriot players into life with the back line producing some good inter-play to allow Adonis Marmaras to go over in the corner. This was converted by full back Marcus Holden. With growing confidence and an increased performance by the visiting pack, time after time quick clean ball was produced that allowed scrum-half Burhan Torgut to release the back line. With time, space and an extra yard of pace the Cypriot backs were able to convert their advantage in this area with another try to Dan Thrasivoulou and a brace to full back Marcus Holden who managed to convert a further two tries. With a permanent replacement made due to an injury to Adonis Mamaras, the visitors managed to hold on until the dying minutes of the game when Enfield crossed the line for what was the final action of the game.
Hard running from Christo Kasabi and the returning Stephan Eleftheriou, laid a good foundation for the backs to work into space. Speedy Maratheftis made a significant contribution with some trademark darting runs. The midfield of Thrasivoulou and Emery defended well applying a significant amount of pressure on the Ignatians back line. However, it was the running of Man of the Match Marcus Holden that provided the platform for a hard fought victory with Enfield playing a significant part in an exciting game that was a great spectacle for the 200 strong crowd. That said an outstanding team performance by all the players had laid the perfect foundation for the remainder of the season - well done to all.
The CRF would like to thank Enfield Ignatians for their outstanding hospitality including an exceptional BBQ. Additional thanks must go to Tessa Konemann who, together with the Enfield Physio Niki Triteos managed to keep the team in one piece. Final thanks goes to the Shanksodopoulos Laundry Emporium in removing all those grass stains from the crisp white playing kit!!!!
#: Denotes uncapped
Thrasivoulou (2), Marmaras, Holden (2)
For more match day photos, click here