Sweden and Czechia played out a thrilling opening men’s Rugby Europe Trophy match of the season on Saturday.
If this clash in the Stockholm Stadion in Stockholm is anything to go by, we are in for a treat from this competition in 2023/24 because 85 points were shared and it was end-to-end action before Sweden came out on top 48-37.
The home side got off to a flyer and scored a try after just one minute and 31 seconds. It came from centre Axel Kalling-Smith and it was converted to make it 7-0.
Centre Samuel Dupuy kicked a penalty to get Czechia on the board after seven minutes.
Scrum-half Mattias Nilsson, who had kicked the earlier conversion, then kicked a penalty to make it 10-3 to Sweden.
As the first quarter came to an end, good hands set up Vlastimil Divis, the second-row, for an unconverted try by Czechia.
Sweden then scored a cracking converted try after 25 minutes, winger Alfred Nordgren coming off his wing to great effect to burst through and go over and it was 17-8.
The Czechia forwards were doing a good job though and tighthead prop Vladan Divis went over with Dupuy converting to make it 17-15.
Just after the half hour mark Nilsson kicked a penalty to edge Sweden into a 20-15 lead before Dupuy’s penalty made it 20-18 at half-time.
Casper Forsberg, the Sweden hooker, had a great break in the 46th minute and, eventually after some patient phases, it led to No.8 Theodor Karlsson going over for a try. It was converted and it was 27-18.
In the 52nd minute Czechia were awarded a penalty try, the seven points making it 27-25.
Stand-off Tim Johansson was starting to create space for Sweden and, just after the hour mark, he linked up with Karlsson and Nilsson for the latter to score a try. He converted it too to make it 34-25.
With 12 minutes to go Sweden scored another try through loosehead prop Ale Loman and when Nilsson converted it was 41-25.
In the 75th minute the final Swedish try came when Kalling-Smith bagged his second. Nilsson converted for 48-25.
Dupuy scored a five-pointer and then replacement Richard Hrebacka scored a seven-pointer as Czechia finished strongly, but they lost by 11 points after a very good encounter.
There was also a Pool C match in the men’s Rugby Europe Conference event on Saturday in the Sofia National Stadium in Sofia as Bulgaria played Türkiye.
Bulgaria are now second in the section and Türkiye bottom after the hosts came out on top 40-24 in what was another entertaining watch.
The home side led 17-8 at half-time and eventually got over the line against their battling hosts, fittingly captain Petar Nikolov with the final points with a penalty in the last minute to make the final margin of victory 16 points much to the delight of a vocal and enthusiastic home support.
By Gary Heatly
Photos: Nickolai Tenev