The Swedish Championship (SM) kicked off in Skarpnäck with all four teams involved. Rain overnight but dry with a temperature of 20° gave almost perfect playing conditions although a strong wind was blowing down the field when perhaps the two favourites, Exiles and Enköping, kicked off.
Exiles had given half of their victorious Seven´s team a week off and there were others attending a wedding. They were still able to field a powerful squad but suffered a last minute blow when Sean had to call off for family reasons. The team still included three lethal finishers from the Sevens: Theo Karlsson, Liam Pallin and Alexandre Tuchashvili. And on the bench was the giant Ale Loman, top points scorer in the Seven´s Championships while playing for bottom team Lugi. Ale will be playing for Exiles in the 15s this year, while studying Teknisk Fysik in Lund. In other words, brain as well as brawn.
Enköping, as far as I could see, fielded 14 players from their Seven´s squad and of these 11 took part in the starting line-up with four new players in the front five. Only Robin F. was missing from their final line-up in Norrköping.
Enköping had the wind in the first half and went on the attack immediately. The game was, however, spoiled in the first half by a never- ending series of penalties. After 20” the penalty count was 10 – 0 in Enköping´s favour. Exiles defended strongly and even broke out on a few occasions but were immediately driven back by yet another penalty. The final penalty count in the first half was 14 – 3 and Enköping finally got a try just before half-time from a simple interception. At half-time, 5 – 0 to Enköping but Exiles came out afterwards exerting tremendous pressure and leveled to 5 – 5. It was clear they were getting on top but Enköping were still getting the lion´s share of the penalties and made their way upfield. Exiles passed their way out of defense but the Enköping centre intercepted on the 22 and ran strongly to score. A few minutes later yet another penalty saw Enköping with an easy kick in front of the posts. Exiles relaxed and Andy Daish picked up smartly to score. 19 – 5 to Enköping after 56” and a surprising result seemed on the cards. Exiles had been in command in the second half, however, and their bench was far stronger. Gaps began to appear, Exiles picked up a couple of tries and suddenly it was 19 – 17 to the visitors. Ten mins to go and Enköping conceded a penalty just inside their own half. Up stepped Ushangi to put over a beautifully struck ball and Exiles took the lead for the first time. Enköping had had enough and after intense pressure they conceded a simple penalty. With a couple of minutes to go a standard passing move gave an overlap in the corner and Ushangi put that one over too. 30 – 19 to the home team and Enköping players lying exhausted all over the field. Penalty count in the second half 7 – 7 but 4 of the Exiles´ ones came in the last couple of minutes as Enköping desperately tried to defend their line. Penalty total 31 (21 – 10) which to me is completely unsatisfactory. Referees and players must get together and discuss interpretations of the laws. Otherwise we could get the title determined by the idiosyncratic decisions of a single referee.
The second match of the day at Skarpnäck saw a closely fought contest between Hammarby and Troján. The visitors had a bit more bite in attack but Hammarby defended well and only went into the break 13 – 14 down. Troján proved to have greater depth, however, and ran out winners 29 – 18, Almost the exact same score as in the previous match.
Next week, Troján receive Exiles and Hammarby travel to Enköping.