Pride of place the first two male championship semis with the two favourites playing away. Both games were quite tight but it was Pingvin who beat Enköping 22 – 13 and Exiles got home 33 – 18 against Hammarby. The Ladies trundled on with the North and South leagues. The South is 50% walkovers and the North has only had one game where both teams had 15 players.
Göteborg proved too strong for Exiles Twos in Stockholm as well and they have now extended their winning run to 10 games. They have more than a 50 – 50 chance of beating Trojan for a place in Allsvenskan next year, although I expect most rugby people would like to see Trojan stay upp as well and make it six teams in Allsvenskan.
Erikslund beat Spartacus by a wider margin than in Gothenburg and will now face Exiles Twos for Seventh ranking in Sweden, not a bad performance by both teams.
Back to the two semis: there is not much information to date on the match in Enköping but it seems to have been close throughout. Enköping started off with a couple of yellow cards, but were still within one-score distance well into the second half. A final penalty gave the result 13 – 22 and a nine-point lead into the second semi.
Like Pingvin last week, Hammarby started off against Exiles at 100 mph and Exiles had difficulty in getting their hands on the ball. They did, however, work their way into the opposing 22 and the young prop Theo showed strength and power to force his way over. Two more points from Neill gave Exiles a rather undeserved 7 – 0 lead. Hammarby continued to have more than their fair share of the ball and even missed a long-range kick at goal.
The Exiles backs were always looking dangerous and then on 27” the Hammarby defence just held the line in one corner, but the ball was whisked out to the other and Oliver found space to score.
Hammarby were running ceaselessly at the Exiles defences but Exiles held firm and it was seldom they made it over the gain-line. On 38” Dustin Jinka put over an easy penalty for Hammarby to make it 12 – 3. And then Exiles in a two minute burst more or less killed the game. First some snappy interpassing by the Exiles backs cut the defence open and it was fullback Ash who went over for the score, converted by Neill. Then a brilliant break from the base of the scrum by Matt saw the ball end up in Olivers hands again and he made no mistake for his double. Another conversion, the whistle went and suddenly Exiles seemed to have an unassailable lead, 26 – 3.
Exiles had some wind assistance in the second half while Hammarby were unable to take long kicks for position to the same extent. They were still getting plenty of the ball, however, and with Exiles giving away penalties galore they were pinned on their own goalline until Andreas Nilsérius on 55” found a way over far out.
Exiles were beginning to show signs of nerves when another Hammarby attack saw reserve Pontus Westlund Spaak force his way over. With the conversion it was suddenly 26 – 15 and Hammary were within two scores. The tension only lasted a couple of minutes, however. Bradders ran strongly from No 8 and linked up with Matt who sprinted away under the posts. The conversion made it 33 – 15 and Exiles could breathe again. Play was then rather inconclusive for a spell and supporters looked at each other when with about ten minutes to go Hammarby elected to take a penalty which was far out and close to the halfway line. It was converted brilliantly by Hammarby player-coach Dustin Jinka but there was to be no more scoring on the day. Exiles were just held up with a couple of minutes to go, but then that was that. 33 – 18 to the “away” team and they will meet again in a week´s time to decide who goes to the final.
This was a poor game by the Exile´s forwards, probably their poorest of the season. But that was partly because Hammarby didn´t allow them to play any better. There were two or three late changes and the scrummaging lost most of its stability. They were pushed back for the first time this season and they lost two against the head, unheard of. The lineouts were more of a disaster. Exiles are usually rock solid on their own throw-in but here six were thrown in widely inaccurately and lost. This cannot be allowed to happen again. The two captains of recent years were both absent and there was perhaps some lack of leadership on the day. The Exiles backs were excellent as expected, but they didn´t get as much of the ball as they had hoped for because of the malfunctioning forwards. Let´s hope we can get things sorted out by next week and show what Exiles can really do when firing on all cylinders.
But congratulations Hammarby. I think you played better than Pingvin the week before.