The newly formed Swedish U20 team put up an impressive display to beat a better than expected Stirling University by four tries to one in a match whose venue was changed twice because of waterlogged pitches. The final pitch was acceptable, although heavy and muddy, and the game was played in an almost continuous drizzle.
Coach Henry van Niekerk had had his fair share of troubles prior to the game with two last minute withdrawals through injury, two players not released by the army and one player not allowed on the plane because his papers were not in order. Finally, he assembled 19 players with a shortage of front row players. Second row moved up to prop and back row to second row, but the forwards were just able to hold their own in the scrums and were ahead in the lineouts.
Stirling started off strongly aided by a slight slope and a following wind but the U20 defence was rock solid. The Swedes came more into the game and showed they could make breaks in the backs. Finally, after 15” Samuel Ekfeldt broke through and ran away to score under the posts. Mattieu Spens converted and a few minutes later a powerful forward drive saw Arvid Peters over for another. 12 – 0 to the visitors but Stirling continued to press and they finally got through to score a converted try on the half-time whistle.
In the second half it was the U20s who had the advantage and a little better timing of the final pass could have given a couple of tries. Stirling held on however although the attacks got closer to their own line. Finally the pack went over again and Anthony Rafael got the touchdown. One last attack by Stirling, but it was comfortably contained and the Swedes worked their way down the field again for Theo Karlsson to force his way over for the final try.
The Swedish defence was outstanding, I don´t think they missed a tackle all afternoon and the handling of both teams was top class considering the conditions. Theo at Nr 8 was a very nasty surprise for the Scottish boys, He burst through several times to make 40 metres with two or three defenders required to stop him. My man of the match. Viggo Pihl had an excellent game as well, despite playing out of position. The backs all ran strongly, as well as chopping down their opponents. Olle Håkansson kept the ball flowing from the base of the scrum while Rasmus Lindquist at stand-off created problems for the Stirling defence. All in all a fine team effort.
Stirling took the game very seriously with both their teams training and warming up before the game. Stirling are not one of the stronger varsity sides but university rugby is making rapid progress in Britain and they were a well-drilled and useful side who were certainly not planning to lose to the inhabitants of the frozen North.
This was a punishing game and we will see how many of our 19 players are still on the field for the Edinburgh University game on Friday. The Edinburgh University team is the best in Scotland. They played a start of season match against St Andrews in September at Murrayfield in front of a crowd of 10.000. This team would probably have been too strong for the U20s, but we will be playing the Engineering faculty which should be about the right level to provide another tough game.