Monday, 25 March 2013

All Blacks defeated by Cyprus!


History was made last week. Cyprus national rugby team won 18th consecutive match and set a new record. The previous streak of 17 wins in the official international games belonged to three countries - New Zealand, South Africa, and Lithuania. Cyprus started its run of good luck on the 29th of November 2008 against Azerbaijan; the latest victory came on the 16th of March 2013. The Cypriots destroyed Bulgaria 79:10. Congratulations! I hope the winning streak will stand even longer.

Below you will find brief facts about the record holders. Rugby union in Cyprus started in the 1950s. The British Armed Forces brought the game to the island. Military formed a league of six teams. The first civil club - Paphos Tigers joined them in 2003. Cyprus became affiliated to FIRA in 2007 and played its first international match in 2007. The National Team is known as “Moufflons” - a nickname taken after a kind of wild, horned sheep which habitats the island. The same animal is also in the team’s emblem. The Cyprus Rugby federation has adopted as its motto the famous Spartan phrase - “come back with your shield or on it.” The phrase couldn’t suit the player’s attitude better. Although there are not many of them andplaying in the national team is not profitable, they keep surprising and beating their rivals. So far, in all 23 games, they were back with shield 22 times! The team deserves respect; I wish them all the best!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Harlequins win in LV Cup

Last weekend, most of the rugby fans in Europe focused on the fifth round of Six Nations. There was, however, one more interesting match which is worth mentioning. Harlequins defeated Sale Sharks 32:14 in the LV Cup final. Although reaching the final by the Premiership Champions was not a big surprise it was quite a success for Sale Sharks. The teams are 40 points away from each other in the league table! The North-West club knocked out some big names on their way to the final, for example, Saracens. Sharks’ supporters were full of hope that the cup final victory will be a bright moment of a rather miserable season. Unlucky for them Harlequins were just too strong on that day. Sale Sharks played well; creating lots of dangerous situations, which were not clinical enough, so most of them ended up with turnovers or knock-ons.  Andy Powell deserves a special mention as he was once again one of the best players on the pitch. Sharks returned from Worcester without a trophy but they deserve a lot of respect for their efforts. Their fans can only hope that successful LV Cup campaign will be encouraging for the team and good form will be carried over to the Aviva Premiership matches. Wins are much needed as the team only very lately moved up from the last place in the table, thanks to London Welsh who were deducted five points.

For the Harlequins, wining the LV Cup when their best players were on the national duty is a massive success. It confirms that the club has produced good young players and has got plenty of talents to choose from. Players who normally don’t play too much in the league took their chances and performed in truly impressive style. Quins are becoming the major force not only in the UK but in the entire Europe. They have big ambitions, players and coaches want to win every competition they are in. One-third of this task has been accomplished. Next targets are Aviva Premiership and Heineken Cup titles. If they manage to achieve these, they will be the first team claiming three crowns in one season. Good luck! 

Monday, 18 March 2013

Six Nations - round 5

The fifth round of Six Nations is over. It’s time for a short round up. Despite losing the first game, Wales won all remaining matches and triumphed in Europe for the second year in a row! The Welsh had to win the game in Cardiff by at least seven points, to secure the victory in the tournament. They accomplished this task brilliantly. They were a better team; they dominated their rivals and won 30:3. Congratulations!

On the other Saturday’s game Italians tasted a historic victory defeating Ireland 22:15. There was a lot of drama in the game. Referee showed four yellow cards, including two for the world class leaders - Brian O’Driscoll and Sergio Parisse. The Italians once again confirmed that they belong to the world’s elite. Rome is slowly becoming a fortress where away victories are not an easy thing to achieve.

In the final Saturday’s game France managed to win for the first time in this Tournament. They defeated Scotland 23:16. The man of the match Wesley Fofana was the key player. He scored a very important try and constantly challenged opponents’ defense. Despite the win, France finished on the last place, so the wooden spoon is going to Paris. This is a big surprise as the French were one of the favorites to the trophy.

This year’s Six Nations Championship was very interesting. As usual games were tense, although bad weather conditions prevented scoring too many tries. The spectators witnessed some unexpected results. The biggest surprise is probably the French awful performance! Scotland and Italy showed some great spirit and good skills. Ireland has not managed to achieve anything spectacular as they were heavily hit with injuries.  The two teams which have plenty to cheer are England and Wales. Both have very good, young, talented players. Some of them already sealed their place in the British and Irish Lions squad.

Below you will find the final standings and my XV of the Championship.

15. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
14. Alex Cuthbert (Wales)
13. Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland)
12. Wesley Fofana (France)
11. George North (Wales)
10. Dan Biggar (Wales)
9. Ben Youngs (England)

1. Cian Healy (Ireland)
2. Rory Best (Ireland)
3. Adam Jones (Wales)
4. Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales)
5. Jim Hamilton (Scotland)
6. Sam Warburton (Wales)
7. Chris Robshaw (England)
8. Sergio Parisse (Italy)

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Six Nations - round 4

The fourth round of Six Nations was played in very unfavourable weather conditions. Bitter cold, strong winds and heavy rain made the games very difficult and not too entertaining for spectators. There were only four tries in all three matches!

Scotland - Wales game set a new record - 18 penalty shots at goal and 13 converted. Leigh Halfpenny was successful with seven and Greig Laidlaw with six. The Scots were penalized more often, especially in the scrums. Visitors took their chances and sealed the game 18:28. Apart from good performance of Leigh Halfpenny a special mention deserves Sam Warburton. One of the best back row players in Europe played very well and made an outstanding effort to turnover many rucks. He was rightly picked the man of the match.

Although France went to Dublin looking for their first win in the tournament, it was hosts who dealt better with the bad weather and dominated first minutes of the game. Their effective mauls caused many problems to the French defense. After 40 minutes Ireland was 13:3 in front. They failed to add more points though, and French honour was defended by Louis Picamoles who scored a try in the 73rd minute. The game ended with a 13:13 tie.

On Sunday, England beat Italy 18:11 at Twickenham and remained the only undefeated team in the tournament. Before the game, bookmakers expected big win, suggesting that England might win by 25-35 points. England dominated first half and created many dangerous situations, unfortunately for them, they were not clinical enough to finish it by scoring a try. At half-time, the hosts were leading only 12:3. Second half was totally different. Visitors proved that they should not be underestimated and managed to put a big pressure on the English defense for quite a long periods of time. At the end, six penalties kicked by Toby Flood were sufficient to win the match. Although English players are not satisfied with their performance, they accomplished main task and won another game.

The final round of the tournament will commence next weekend. The most interesting game will take place to be in Cardiff where Wales, which still has a chance to defend the title, will clash with England. For the first time in ten years The English have a chance to win a Grand Slam, so the rivalry will be extra tense. Italy will play Ireland in Rome. France will host Scotland in Paris. The French team has to deal with pretty uncommon situation. They are under pressure as the team is at the last place in the table so another loss will certainly mean an unwanted trophy - wooden spoon.