CYPRUS 27 – 29 CROATIA
Seyhan Puts In A Man Of The Match Performance In Scoring 17 Points In The Mouflons Narrow Defeat Against A Strong Croatian Team.
Rugby news from Ian Fell……..
The Moufflons (the Cyprus National Rugby Team) came within a whisker of retaining their place in Division 1 of the European Conference when in the dying minutes of the game and with four men down through exhaustion and injury, the Croatian visitors facing a defeat by 27-22 scored a converted try and left the field in Paphos winners by 27-29.
Cyprus’ last match of the 2016-17 season in the European Conference Division 1 South, saw them needing to beat Croatia to avoid relegation and send the minnows from Andorra down a division. A defeat, as it turned out, sees the Moufflons drop down to Division 2 and will see next season’s matches against Slovenia, Austria, Serbia and Turkey – some local derby (still to be confirmed)
Croatia had the benefit of a match last weekend where they managed a home draw against Malta, a game the hosts were hoping to win to allow them to challenge for promotion themselves. Arriving in Paphos on Thursday the team and management were hosted by the CRF at the Paphos Gardens Resort, an ideal venue for both teams to relax before the big match.
After a long season for all players, it was probably not surprising that at least two of the Cyprus squad had to pull out at the last minute due to injuries sustained in the training sessions on Friday and in the pre-match warm up on the day. However, both of the TRNC’s representatives – Seyhan Fell and Turgut Burhan – were selected for the starting fifteen with Seyhan on the wing at No 14 and Turgut in the key scrum half No 9 position; his last outing for the Mouflons before retiring from International Rugby to concentrate on coaching in Scotland at the tender age of 26! Another surprise in the warm up came with the news that Seyhan Fell was asked by the coaching team to perform the place kicking duties during the match.
With a large crowd of spectators, some of whom had flown over specifically from Folkestone RFC to support Seyhan in his fifth International, the game got underway with Cyprus kicking off. A high kick, which travelled just over the ten metre line, gave the Cyprus forwards the early opportunity of putting their visitors under pressure and, in surely what must have been one of the quickest penalties awarded to the Moufflons in any of their matches, ‘hands in the ruck’ saw Seyhan Fell stepping forward to attempt his first International kick from a distance of some 40 metres, just off to the right of centre, after just 15 seconds of play. With people still arriving to take their seats the ball sailed high over the crossbar and the home team had registered their first three points inside the first minute.
The game then settled down to see the visitors playing running rugby, throwing the ball across the park without really causing the Moufflons defence any serious problems. A penalty awarded for not releasing the tackled player allowed Croatia to level the scores after about 15 minutes and the game continued in this vein until the half hour mark. A further long range penalty was converted by Seyhan Fell together with two tries, one a glorious interception wide out to the right which allowed Seyhan Fell to run from nearly half way to register his second international try, duly converted. The Moufflons other try of the half was scored by Sam Burns and again converted by Fell.
Half time arrived with Cyprus well in front at 20 – 3, but there was always that thought amongst the large crowd of spectators that the visitors would definitely score tries as the match wore on, it was vital that Cyprus defended well but also added to the points tally in the second half.
The second half played out with the much heavier and stronger Croatian team putting the home side under pressure, Cyprus were definitely the more mobile, but eventually the tries came for the visitors.. First one, then two, three – here Cyprus responded with another converted try of their own – and finally a bonus point fourth for the visitors.
A heart-breaking result for the home side that had seemed so comfortable in the first half, it became evident that while the Moufflons continued to stay ahead, the visitors were dominating the set pieces and the home side was weakening. This followed a similar pattern witnessed in the Andorran game when the Cypriots managed to lose by one point in the fading minutes because they couldn’t control the scrums and lineouts.
However, given the enormous difficulties that always confronts the Moufflon management – player availability – this was an heroic endeavour. When will the Cyprus Sports Organisation finally reward the tremendous efforts made by the Moufflons over the last ten years or so and give them the financial support that they heap upon their underperforming football teams?
So, for the third match in a row The Moufflons managed to lose a match which they deserved to win, this time not on the last play of the game but losing the lead with about three or four minutes of play remaining.
Some of the players now go forward to represent Cyprus in 7s tournaments in Prague next month, the rest will have a well-earned break until the autumn schedule is revealed for both their home domestic competitions and the dates the Moufflons will be performing again in Division 2 of the European Conference.
See you for the 2017-18 season?
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