Superb display by Japan in the morning when they beat Ireland and almost as good a display in the afternoon when Exiles dominated Pingvin to take their 8th Swedish title in a row.
Exiles spent a considerable amount of money to provide food, drink and extra seating at Skarpnäck for the final title match and the last game of the season. It all looked good on a sunny Friday and then, just before the game on Saturday it started to pour and kept pouring the whole afternoon. There was still a crowd of about 350, however, and large amounts of beer and hamburgers were consumed.
Unfortunate with the weather, but it didn´t stop the two teams from putting up a very fine display in extremely difficult conditions. Pingvin had been the better team at home last week as Exiles had a terrible day in the lineouts and not much better in the scrums. At Skarpnäck it was a different story. Sean Burke jumped superbly taking 11 of 12 Exiles throw-ins and severely disrupting those of the opposition. Exiles started off with a strong international front row and another international front row on the bench. The scrums were mainly pretty even, but by the end Pingvin were in retreat. The handling of both teams was remarkable considering the steady downpour, but it was obvious that this was primarily a kicking game. And Exiles did this considerably better. Their back three with Ian Gowland in command seized upon almost all long kicks and returned them with interest while the Pingvin backs were put under pressure from Tim Johansson and Dustin Eaton. They dropped a few and were often caught in possession as the Exiles´ chasers sprinted at them. The first points came after three minutes when a high ball was dropped, Exiles pounced kicked on and Ian won the race to the touchdown. Kicking from far out was almost impossible, Exiles failed with all four not too difficult conversion attempts, although they did put over three easy penalties. Exiles continued to have the edge, although Pingvin got close enough to have a failed kick at goal. Exiles pressure continued and from a driving scrum Georgian lock Nukri got the touchdown. Points scoring was still difficult but on 33” André put over a penalty to make it 13 – 0 and just before half-time another forward drive saw Giga force his way over. This put Exiles 16 points ahead on aggregate and at half-time Pingvin replaced their full-back and No 8. Another raking kick from Exiles saw the ball dropped and once again Ian was up there to kick on and get the touch-down. With half an hour to go Exiles were 21 points up on aggregate and Pingvin were still nowhere near to scoring. They threw everything into attack, a clearance was charged down and from the ensuing attack replacement Eric Mårtensson went over. James Campbell added the points and Pingvin were two converted tries behind. They replaced two of their Georgian front five and pressed hard for several minutes but the Exiles´ line stood firm. With 20” to go Pingvin looked as if they had shot their bolt and Exiles once again had the upper hand. Pingvin were still replacing key players with André slotting another two penalties as the Pingvin line was put under strong pressure. Final score 29 – 7 to Exiles, aggregate 45 – 25, almost the same as 2018.
Some statistics: E. took 10 of 11 lineouts while P. took 3 out of 8. Both teams lost one put-in to the scrum. The penalty count was 12 – 6 in favour of P. The three referees handled the game well.
Exiles had a tremendous back row with Glendon and Theo chopping down everybody before they got to the gain-line. Aided by Sean who was outstanding in the line-out. Also some useful jumping by Erik. All six front row players solid throughout. Great to have Matt back at scrum-half while Tim had one of his best games for the club with varied kicking, running and passing from stand-off. Another great display by Ian at full-back. He snapped up two tri
and was rock solid at the back. This was one of the best displays by Exiles for some time. Pingvin put up a very solid display but were facing a team playing at a higher level than before.
One or two notes:
Good to see the chairman of the Union present to hand out the trophies. Nice to see the Haka performed by the Exiles youths. They had learned it at a camp recently. About 20 players turned up from the Exiles´ champions of 15 and 30 years ago. Only one still playing, guess who? All looking in remarkably good shape.
Congratulations to Ian Gowland, one of Sweden´s all-time best players, who has just chalked up his tenth Swedish XV´s title. And quite a few others on seven or eight.
Probably the best game of the season, far above the normal Swedish standard, with 23 internationals on view. Yet as always no sign of the national team coach with an international in four weeks. What on earth is he playing at?
Other games: Congratulations to Göteborg for a first ever medal (bronze) from the Swedish Championship. Enköping got within 7 points of their lead from the first game.
Well done Troján who return to Allsvenskan after two wins against Södertälje.
Well done to Exiles who won the Ladies´ league and will now go on to have a one-off home semi-final against Enköping. And also a home-final if they get that far.. Pingvin just beat Vänersborg in their last league game and will now meet them again, this time at home in the semi. Could be another Exiles – Pingvin final in two weeks time.