Having been relegated from ENC Div 2B at the beginning of the season, Slovenia visited Cyprus on 8 December 2012 with a view to stamping their authority on the league new boys. However, after a very shaky start, conceding numerous penalties and making some basic handling errors; it was the home side that got on the score board first with some nifty footwork from Marcus Holden who went over in the corner following a great break by fly half Andy Binikos. The crowd would not be disappointed; shortly afterwards from a midfield scrum, a blind side break by Holden released Matt King to sprint over in the far corner to get the second try within 10 minutes of the start of the game, converted by Holden.
With both sides settling into the game the Cypriot attacks were dashed by some good defending by the visitors, however, the basic errors continued with handling and breakdown issues contributing to the frustrations of the home side. Feint glimpses of "go forward" by the forwards and the momentum of centre pairing Sam Emery and Tom Loizides kept the crowd entertained and after some patient recycling, Matt King made an electric break from his own 22 to cross the line for his second try, it was converted by Holden. It was the frustration of the referee with the number of penalties that the Moufflons were conceding that led to a yellow card for King when he failed to release the ball having gone to ground. Down to 14 men, it was from the resulting penalty miss that the Slovenians were able to apply real pressure and having failed to clear their lines the Cypriots were punished by a turnover at the breakdown followed by a cross field kick which was gathered by the Slovenian winger who went over for an unconverted try.
With the sides evened up by a Slovenian yellow card, the game met with a lull as the penalty count continued. One of these penalties was converted by Marcus Holden. As each side exchanged possession, it was down to a bit a individual skill from Tom Loizides to chip over the defence and gather his own kick to score the 4th try of the half, which went unconverted to make the half time score of 27 points to 5 for Cyprus.
A couple of minutes into the second half, Cyprus were awarded a penalty which was kicked into the corner; from the subsequent line-out a set piece move spreading the ball wide released Marcus Holden to go over in the corner for his second try which went unconverted. Whilst Cyprus continued to maintain the upper hand, the second half was littered by small mistakes which led to increased frustrations across the board. However, the defence maintained its composure and did not allow the visitors to cross the line. As the exchanges continued, Tom Loizides crossed the whitewash a second time only to be denied by a foot in touch. A penalty was conceded by the defending side from the resulting line-out; a quick tap penalty feeding Tony Thoma to barge over the line for the second try of the half, converted by Holden. This seemed to spur on the Cyprus attack, with lots of breaks and waves of attackers, it was a break by Matt King, that was recycled and allowed the ball to be pushed wide for Andy Binikos to score in the corner.
It was only silly mistakes that spoilt a vastly improved performance and as both side made numerous changes it was Cyprus that continued to maintain the upper hand and it was a try from flanker Marko Mladenovic to end the Cypriot scoring and a Man of the Match performance. The final action of the game was a penalty kick by Slovenia to end the game with Cyprus victorious by 49 points to 8. Overall, a good performance by a side that played with some adventure, if the mistakes were cut out, the penalty count lowered and the decision making improved, it looks like the game in March against visitors Bulgaria could be one to savour.
Man of the Match: Marko Mladenovic
Team as Follows:
King (2), Holden (2), Loizides, T.Thoma, Binikos, Mladenovic
Photos below, thanks to Stavros Tum for more photos, click here.