Cyprus defeats Azerbaijan 37-3

The Cypriot national rugby team defeated Azerbaijan, on Saturday, 37 points to 3.

Below follows an unofficial match report by Paul Shank.

15 hours travel, 2 hours at immigration awaiting entry visas, 4 hours sleep, poor accommodation and no real food to talk about – not the best preparation for an international rugby match. However, this was the reality of the first game of the season for The Moufflons. Despite all the obstructions, Cyprus came away victorious by 37 points to 3, in the European Nations Cup Division 3D game against Azerbaijan in Baku on Saturday 29 November 2008.

The tone of the game was set when Cyprus started their intensive warm up routine whilst the local players talk about the night before and hastly prepared the pitch for the game. The tradition of singing national anthems prior to the game was dispensed with for some unknown reason but an impromptu huddle heard the Moufflons sing their anthem with great pride to the bemusement of the opposition.

The whistle blew, the game commenced and the next 10 minutes saw wave after wave of Azeri forwards pounding the Cypriot defensive line. The collisions in the contact area grew in intensity; each wave of attack, saw each one snuffed out and slowly but surely they were halted and pushed back. However, indiscipline by the defence saw Azerbaijan take 2 penalty kicks at goal, one of which was successful, 3-0 to the home side.

Quickly running out of options and with the tides turning, the home side opted to kick for territory adding pressure to the Cyprus back 3, as the aerial bombardment continued a fumble saw the home side awarded a scrum deep in the Cyprus 22. From the resultant pick-up by the talented Azeri scrum half, he threw a wild pass that was intercepted by Marcus Holden who sprinted the length of the field to score under the posts, with the conversion taken, the score became 3-7. As the game continued, the Cyprus players gained in confidence and started to string together the moves that they had been practicing so hard for over previous days. A simple switch move in the midfield from a line out saw centre Colm O’Cleirigh score in the corner, unfortunately a little too far for the conversion, score 3 – 12 to the Moufflons.

This was to become a golden period for the visiting side with numerous attacking breaks, frustrating the home side, who were unable to cope with the pressure being placed upon them, conceding numerous penalties in and around the breakdown. A converted penalty by Marcus Holden saw the score creep to 3-15. Further pressure from the Moufflons was to trigger a number of almost criminal physical attacks on the Cypriot players. Paphos flanker Chris Thoma had his cheek bone smashed by a stray elbow, which will rule him out for the near future. Chris will require surgery to correct his smashed face, his assailant went unnoticed. However, this triggered bigger and better things from Cyprus, with further attacks covering all channels of the pitch. A break by Marcus Holden, who drew the final man, passed to Dan Thrasivoulou who sprinted into the corner to add to the building score line which was converted leading to 3-22. However, the game remained fragile, with the referee failing to ascert the level of discipline required at International rugby; another cowardly attack on prop Christo Kasabi saw him being kicked, punched and pushed by the opposition. Unfortunately, the referee took the easy option and only awarded the Azerbaijan Captain a yellow card.

5 minutes later, wave after wave of Cypriot attack failed to be thwarted by the home side and with a short burst to the line George Agathocteous scored under the posts, again converted by Holden. This was to be the final score of the half which finished Azerbaijan 3, Cyprus 29.

The second half commenced and within minutes a nice combination between the Maratheftis Brothers, Dimitri and Michael, saw the latter break free from the defence and score in the corner. At this stage the game was all but over, great leadership and decision making from Captain and Man of the Match, Tony Thoma, coupled with some excellent territorial kicking by fly half Kyle Oelofse continued to pile the pressure on the home side who conceded a number of penalties, all of which but one were missed. With tiredness setting in and all replacements used, including an impressive debut from Limassol Crusaders, 17 year old flanker, Marco Mladenovic, the final whistle was blown. Final score, Azerbaijan 3 – Cyprus 37.

This was an outstanding start to the new season, with some particularly strong personal performances on show, it was great to see that the sacrifices and hard work that had been put in by this small “Band of Brothers” had reaped the rewards in the form of the scoreline.

Following a gruelling return journey, the Moufflons must now recover and prepare themselves for the next game against Monaco, which will take place at Happy Valley on the Sovereign Base Area at Episkopi, courtesy of the Commander British Forces on Saturday 6 December, kick off at 2pm with all spectators welcome. Come and support the Moufflons on their campaign to achieve first place in Division 3D.

Congratulations to the full Cyprus rugby team and management on yet another success!

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