This weekend saw the Cyprus National Team
travel to defend their unbeaten ENC 2D record in Bulgaria
, their previous meeting at Pafos in March last year resulted in a 55-8 victory to the home side. All the pre-match talk was of the various changes that the Bulgarians had made to their coaching and management team, including the recruitment of a new director of rugby who had previously been involved in the French elite squad for 3 Rugby World Cups – expectations were high.
Following a day’s concentrated training, the Moufflons were focused on their aspiration of another win, although they were under no illusions that this was going to be a easy job to achieve. The team travelled from their accommodation to the Bulgarian ground to be met by a very partisan crowd cheering on their national side. Following the anthems, a minute’s silence was excellently observed by all as a sign of respect for the recent passing of a member of the Bulgarian Rugby Federation.
The whistle blew to signal the start of the game and it was obvious from the start that the Bulgarians had been inspired by the recent changes to both management and players. The forward momentum was soon rewarded by a snap drop goal by the home side’s fly half. There were some ominous signs in the opening exchanges with the large Bulgarian pack constantly on a front foot pounding the Cypriot defence. However, against the play, deep in their own half, the Cypriot fly half Andy Binikos made a break to release the back line, which saw Renos Ioannides run the length of the pitch and pass to Matt King who scored under the posts, converted by Holden. Despite this early break, the visiting side had to defend strongly at the breakdown and whilst a number of penalties were conceded, the Bulgarians were unable to convert this pressure into points with a missed penalty kick attempt. Wave after wave of driving maul were spoilt and stopped in their tracks and options were slowly running out for the home side.
Eventually, the Moufflons set piece began to dominate with the hard work of the tight five in the scrum and the Antoniades brothers dominating in the lineout, time after time the platform was set for a further 5 first-half tries which featured a hatrick by Matt King with a try a piece for Reno Ioannides, Chris Thoma and Marcus Holden who managed to convert 5 of these 6 tries.
Half time score – Bulgaria 3 – Cyprus 40.
With mistakes identified, the Moufflons refocused their efforts and began to dominate in all passages of play, Bulgarian heads began to drop and the home crowd fell silent; the Cypriot back line rewarded the hard work of the forward pack with numerous breaks but it was prop, Kiki Vatikiotis who got on the scorecard first in the second half. This was soon followed by Matt King’s 4th try, both tries were converted by Holden. A number of changes were made including 2 exciting young prospects for the future; Luke Frixou (who follows his father Felix’s footsteps in representing the Moufflons) and Stylianos Theoklitou-Panagiotou making their debut with a welcome return for Dervis Devron and Constantinos Constantinides; bringing fresh legs to the hard working forward pack. Time after time, gaps were exploited and great support play by forwards and backs alike allowed a further 6 tries to be scored, Ioannides adding a further 3 to his tally together with George Antoniades, George Agathocleous and Marcus Holden. Holden was able to convert 7 of the 8 tries, an excellent kicking display for the afternoon. With 3 minutes remaining on the clock the referee blew the final whistle on what was an outstanding display from all 22 players that were involved.
A game that featured some excellent running by the backs, coupled with the hard work of the forward pack and an outstanding defensive display with no tries conceded. With 2 games remaining, Cyprus continue their progress, another bonus point win. We now look forward to the much awaited home game against Greece on 26 May 2012, Pafiakos Stadium, Kick Off 5pm – hope to see you there!!
Man of the Match – Kyri Antoniades
Squad as Follows:
- Kiki Vatikiotis – Manchester ENG
- Tony Thoma (C) – Pafos Tigers
- Christo Kasabi – Enfield Ignatians ENG
- Kyri Antoniades – Old Whitgiftians ENG #
- Lawrence Macrides – Chingford ENG
- Marko Mladenovic – Stratford Upon Avon ENG
- George Antoniades – Manchester ENG
- Chris Thoma – Pafos Tigers
- Burhan Torgut – UWIC WAL
- Andrew Binikos – Currie SCO
- Tom Loizides – Esher ENG
- George Agathocleous – Pafos Tigers
- Reno Ioannides – Mountlucon FRA
- Matt King – Wilmslow Wolves ENG
- Marcus Holden – DIOK NL
- Stylianos Theoklitou-Panagiotou – Doncaster ENG #
- Dervis Devron – Ayios Nikolaos Stag
- Luke Frixou – Derby ENG #
- Constantinos Constantinides – Limassol Crusuaders
- Dan Thrasivoulou – Derby ENG
- Fidias Efthymiou – UWE and Dings Crusuaders ENG
- Colm O’Cléirigh – Bective Rangers IRE
# – Denotes new caps
Tries: King (4); Ioannides (4); Holden (2); C Thoma; Vatikiotis; Agathocleous; G Antoniades