Whilst the major Six Nation countries were playing the autumn internationals against their southern hemisphere counterparts, the Cyprus Rugby team were competing in the Rugby Europe Championships Division 3. With two matches in the space of three weekends it was a busy schedule for The Mouflons in November.
Kicking off the 2017-18 Championships with a home match against Austria, Cyprus were hoping to reverse the fortunes of their previous five matches which had seen all matches lost, albeit very narrowly in most of them. A bit of luck in several games would have seen victories rather than defeats, but with a drop in Division for the current season it is hoped that it will allow the team to regroup and get back to winning ways.
Starting their league campaign with a home fixture against Austria, the visitors were no match for the home team who romped to a comfortable victory by 42 points to 5. Good performances from Marcus Holden at fly half and the forwards in particular saw the Mouflons score three converted tries in both halves to gain a bonus point victory. North Cyprus were again represented by Seyhan Fell, securing his sixth cap on the wing and a first cap for Sam Goodwin, who came on as a second half replacement to hopefully see the start of his international career.
Two weeks later, last Saturday, saw the Mouflons travel to Slovakia and experience very differing conditions in their match in Piestany, 6 degrees centigrade and very blustery conditions, a massive shock to the system for the Island players who had played the previous match in very pleasant 22C and sunny conditions.
Despite the conditions Cyprus played an entertaining game of running rugby, managing to keep their feet in the slippery underfoot conditions and again gained an impressive away, bonus point victory, scoring six tries and a comfortable winning margin of 38 points to 6
The visitors started well and were on the scoreboard within three minutes after a long clearance kick was returned by the Cyprus backs, who broke through the centre culminating in the forwards powering over in the left corner after a penalty was kicked to touch, setting up the drive from the line out. Against a very stiff breeze the conversion was missed. Slovakia narrowed the lead after 15 minutes with a penalty but Cyprus had by far the majority of the play during the remaining 25 minutes, eventually going over for their second try in the 35th minute, Seyhan Fell adding the conversion. With Slovakia scoring a second penalty on half time the score at the break was 12 – 6 to the visitors.
This was a match more typical of a winter’s day in the UK and with the breeze behind the Mouflons in the second half there was really only going to be one winner. Five minutes into the half and a kick from hand on half way saw the ball bounce kindly for the Mouflons on the 22, gathered by Seyhan Fell who cut inside to go over just left of the posts. The resulting conversion was given by the touch judges but appears to have been overruled by the referee as the official score sheet has it marked as MC (missed conversion).
Cyprus scored a further three tries, all converted by Seyhan Fell, promoted to kicking duties in the absence of Marcus Holden, and Slovakia never really showed any real attacking menace until in the final minutes they threatened the Cyprus line. However, strong Mouflons’ defence saw the danger averted and Cyprus now sit top of their group with two remaining fixtures to play against Serbia and Slovenia in the spring.
The two TRNC representatives are both hoping to be fit for the matches in March and April, with Seyhan Fell hoping to add to his tally of 15 points this season and, should he retain his kicking duties, to keep his current success rate at about the 90% rate from his 11 kicks so far.
Pictures courtesy of Ian Fell