This weekend saw Cyprus travel to Split in Croatia for their second leg in the qualification stages of the European Sevens Championship. This tournament saw an increase in the quality of opposition with France, Italy, Germany, Belgium and home side Croatia making up the top half of the draw with Cyprus, Bosnia, Serbia, Switzerland and Hungary completing the 10 teams competing in this week’s competition.
Cyprus were drawn in the same pool as Italy, Croatia, Belgium and Switzerland. The opening game was against Italy with the Cypriot Seven conceding 24 point to nil against the top ranked side. It was clear that the weekend was going to be tough as the mid morning break allowed the weary bodies to prepare for the afternoon games against Croatia and Belgium. In the late afternoon the home side scored 2 soft tries which left the Cypriots battling to get back into contention, but with vocal home support the Croatians managed to score another converted try which left the final score at 17-0.
The reality of rugby at the higher levels was clearly taking its toll on the players mentally and physically and with a couple of hours to recover, it was clear that the Cyprus’ players would have to dig deep to get the result that would have a positive effect on their final pool position. As the game kicked off against Belgium, a side that is placed 5 divisions higher in the “full” game, it was clear that Cyprus would have to scrap out a result… and this they did, with tries from Sevens Captain Chris Thoma and 2 from Marcus Holden, the final whistle could not come soon enough as Belgium pulled back to within 7 points, final score Cyprus 17 – Belgium 10, at last something to show for all the hard work the lads had put in.
The following morning saw Cyprus take on Switzerland in what could have been the decider for the 5th/6th place play-off. However, things were not to work out as the side lost by 12 points to 7. This left Cyprus, Belgium and Switzerland on one win each and it was Cyprus who managed to pip the other sides by a greater points difference. This achievement would see the team play against Hungary in the Plate Semi Final.
It was clear from the start that this game would be totally one sided with Cyprus scoring at will, averaging one try a minute in what was to be the second biggest points victory of the entire tournament. Twelve tries later, and with a final score of 80 points to nil, the Cyprus boys had made it to the 5th/6th place Plate Final where they would again face Belgium.
This however, proved to be a step too far and whilst the boys battled until the very end the final game went in favour of Belgium by 17 points to 10.
The team have experienced rugby sevens at the highest level and have rubbed shoulders with some of the best teams in Europe – we have learnt a lot and we can see the rewards that are achievable given the high levels of dedication and personal sacrifice, which should never be underestimated. A special mention must go to Mark Walboyff, the Sevens Coach, for giving his precious time to the benefit of all those involved. Many positives can be taken from both weekends, including the potential to move up by 5 or 6 places in the Sevens European Rankings. An extremely credible performance from a team that is only in its second year – Bravo Kypros!
Our thanks to Paul Shanks for the review.