The Men’s Rugby Europe Trophy 2022/23 continued last weekend, with Croatia hosting Switzerland and Sweden visiting Lithuania.
The picturesque surroundings of the City stadium Makarska were on full show as Switzerland travelled to Croatia, looking to maintain their winning streak in the competition and cement their position at the top of the table. The game started well for the visitors, who were clinical in attack as they went 0-10 up in the first fifteen minutes of the match.
A quick tap penalty was taken by the talismanic Number 8 Ivo Peric, who went over for the hosts’ first try of the game. This was converted and a few minutes later, Jason Newton’s penalty kick levelled the scores at 10-10. A close-range try from hooker Kresimir Coric meant that the Croats went down the tunnel at half-time leading 17-10.
As the game restarted, both sides’ defences stayed strong, and there were no more scores until the hour mark when wing Swiss Cyril Fluckiger went over to score a try in the corner. A couple of minutes later, Jules Porcher’s beautifully weighted chip saw Jolan Vincent dot the ball down for another try, meaning the away team now led 17-22. Porcher would show some impressive side-stepping ability to score a try of his own, and a late consolation try from Croatia could not stop Switzerland from winning their fourth game of the competition, as the final score line was 22-32. Victory ensured that Switzerland won the competition and reached their highest ever world rankings.
Lithuania v Sweden
The other match in The Men’s Rugby Europe Trophy 2022/23 took place at the Siaulai Gardino str. 14 between Lithuania and Sweden.
Sweden started well away from home, taking the lead after just three minutes as full-back Hannes Nylen converted a penalty kick. However, Ale Loman was sin binned, and Lithuania took advantage of having an extra man as a well-worked try saw them take a 7-3 lead. Two minutes later, Sweden regained the lead as Theodor Karlsson scrambled over the line and with the conversion successful, the visitors led 7-10.
Germany would score a try before the break, but this was not enough for them to take the lead into half-time as the score was 12-13 after 40 minutes.
The second half proved to be less eventful than the first, with a pick-and-go try from Vaa Iuta early in the half extending his side’s lead to 12-18. Lithuanian captain Dovydas Taujanskas’ penalty narrowed the lead, but he was not successful with his final penalty attempt, missing in the last play of the game to claim a draw for his team.
The final score was 15-18, with Sweden leapfrogging Lithuania in the table.
Kosovo v Austria
Last weekend also marked the start of the Rugby Europe Development 22/23, which involves Austria and Kosovo who play two matches in a round robin format. The first of these took place at the Hajvali Stadium in Pristina, a special moment for Kosovo Rugby as it was the country’s first competitive XV rugby game.
An animated crowd were present in Pristina to cheer the side on, and despite their brilliant support, Kosovo were outclassed by a more experienced Austrian outfit. By half-time, Austria held a commanding 0-23 lead thanks to two converted tries and two penalty kicks. The rolling maul and pick-and-goes were proving to be particularly effective for the away side, scoring their third try after the break, making the score line read 0-28 in their favour.
However, the highlight of the game was to come just after the hour mark as Kosovo captain Medhi Krasniqi took a quick tap penalty and crossed the line. This try was met with a loud roar from the main stand, proud to see their nation’s first points in a competitive rugby match. Whilst Austria went on to score another three converted tries as Kosovo failed to deal with kicks in behind, this was still a historic day for the hosts and will such a loss will add to their development as a team. These sides will next face each other on Saturday 22nd April at the Stadium Wiener Sport-Club in Vienna.
By Paul Wilkinson
Photo: Berislav Rozman, Nicholas Abbott, Ardian Skenderbe Nrecaj