Another Season, Another Challenge..............
Destination Vienna. Having been promoted into ENC 2C, Cyprus now face the new challenges of Austria, Slovenia, Hungary as well as meeting old foes Bulgaria. However, this season is more important with the added aspect of each fixture being tied into RWC 2015 qualification and Austria would prove to be Cyprus' toughest fixture to date. With a side selected against a backdrop of injuries and unavailability’s; a couple of training sessions, some hard words to set the scene on how important this season has become; were all the foundations for the game to commence under floodlight in one of Vienna's oldest football stadiums, that in its heyday boasted crowds of 80,000.
With an excitable but respectful crowd, the game kicked off with the usual exchanges, played at a frantic pace. For the neutral, it would have provided a very good advertisement for the game with both sides attacking and counter attacking but it was the visiting side that got on the scoreboard first, when a line-out produced a good platform to drive and roll forward, with No 8 Chris Thoma breaking off and running over the line, converted by fly half Marcus Holden. However, this would not stop the home side from fighting for every inch of territory and when a pass was intercepted and kicked ahead; the scrambling Cyprus defence was unable to clear their lines and a charge down allowed the home side to gather and spread the ball wide and go over in the corner. A few minutes later, a careless mistake by the Austrian pack led to a penalty that was converted by Holden. It was another line-out that fired the Cyprus backs into action and after a surge forward by George Agathocleous, with some quick recycling provided the ball for Agathocleous to go over the line. Five minutes later, a searing break from within the Cyprus half by winger Tom Loizides and a great offload to the supporting Holden allowed him to score under the posts which he duly converted. It was not long before the bonus point try was scored when a series of good hands by the backs allowed Fidias Efthymiou to go over in the corner.
Clearly spurred into action after conceding the tries, the Austrian pack worked tirelessly in scrum and breakdown to eventually punch over the line and score their second try. In the dying minutes of the first half, a break up the midfield led to a series of breakdowns with the ball being spread wide and a great pick up by Matt King, allowing him to go over in the corner with the try being converted by Holden. Half time score 15 - 34.
The second half started with a number of exchanges in both possession and territory. The Austrian pack fell foul of the referee again and conceded a penalty which was converted by Holden. A break from deep in his own half allowed Dan Thrasivoulou to find space and kick ahead, very close to the Austrian try line and chased by the Austrian defence, he was tackled off the ball which led to the referee awarding a penalty try, converted by Holden. Once again, this spurred the Austrian pack into action and they proceeded to make ground and apply pressure, the visiting side conceded a number of penalties and with his patience wearing thin, the referee showed a yellow card to Cyprus Scrum Half Burhan Torgut, for persistent infringements by the whole team. This pressure eventually took its toll as the Austrian pack crossed the line for the 3rd time bringing the score line to 20-47. On his return to the pitch, Burhan Torgut was able to add his name to the score sheet when a break from the back of a scrum by Chris Thoma allowed him to offload to Torgut who rounded off a satisfying performance by the visiting side. With a conversion to follow and various replacements made, the final whistle was blown on a final score of 20-54.
A great start to the new season with some valuable lessons learnt, plenty of improvements to be made and full respect to a young Austrian side that showed lots of skill, heart and determination for the full duration of the game.
Man of the Match – Tom Loizides
Team as Follows:
* - Denotes new caps
C. Thoma, Agathocleous, Holden, Efthymiou, King, Penalty, Torgut
Official Rugby World Cup 2015 details: http://www.rugbyworldcup.com/home/matches/match=13821/index.html
FIRA-AER Details: http://www.fira-aer-rugby.com/match-2140.htm
To view match day photos, click here - Thanks to Stefan Sigwarth
Strong defence from MOM Tom Loizides and former Limassol Crusaders Junior Marko Mladenovic
No. 8 Christoforos Thoma of Paphos Tigers opening the scoring
Matthew King scores in the corner.
Turkish Cypriot Burhan Torgut scores the final Try for Cyprus
Captain Tony Thoma strong in defence leading his team from the front