Stockholm finally opened its new rugby pitches at Gubbängen to Championship rugby with Exiles meeting Hammarby on Friday night. The enclosed pitch was excellent as previously recorded and apart from a malplaced floodlight the facilities and new stand were top-class and it perhaps no coincidence that Exiles had their best crowd ever, around 200, outside an SM-final. Close to half were of course faithfull Hammarby fans, but the rest were Exiles of all ages. Let´s hope this trend continues.
Exiles were coming off the back of a narrow defeat to Enköping, the first for many years, while Hammarby had suffered their worst defeat ever, away to Troján.
Exiles had a fairly strong team although they were still experimenting with various combinations, while Hammarby seemed a bit stronger than their desperately weak team from the previous.game against Troján. There was still s gulf between the teams, however, as Exiles started strongly with Theo tearing huge holes in the Hammarby defences. They tackled well, however, as opposed to the week before when they stood watching Troján trot in under the posts. Nevertheless, Theo ended up with four tries and made a couple of others from the 12 scored by Exiles. Ucha could only convert six which meant he missed more on Friday than he did all last season. The others all fizzed past the post on a windy night, so he will no doubt soon be back to his 98% record. Another strong runner was young American Anthony Gills who picked up a hat-trick. Exiles dominated the scrums for 65”, but their lineouts had more difficulty against a strengthened Hammarby. Exiles, with 5 players injured, were down to 14 men for the last 15” and Hammarby took heart, showing that they could attack as well. It was Exiles turn to defend but they managed to keep their line intact to the end. Hammarby had three farmer club players from Berserkers and, despite a heavy defeat, will probably feel a lot happier than after their previous outing.
Saturday saw a combination of two easy wins, two decent contests and two fights to the death.
The Göteborg ladies surprised with an easy win over Vänersborg; Minonna got her usual couple of tries for the visitors, but Göteborg had more strength in depth, including the indestructible Dr Ullis, now less than two years away from her 50th birthday.
The other decisive victory came as expected from Pingvin visiting Vänersborg. The home side are not up to scratch yet, although they only conceded one try in the last 20”. Once again Pingvin fielded 7 Giorgians, who scored 9 of their 10 tries, but four of whom were also given yellow cards at various times, one of which was raised to a red.
Either red/yellow fever from the referee or a worrying trend.
The first decent contest saw Uppsala receive Exiles Twos in Div. 1. The home team had help from some solid citizens from Sandviken who for long periods battled in the Exiles 22 without much success. Their pressure paid off with a couple of tries and they closed to 17 – 25 with 15” to go. The situation became acute when Exiles got two yellow cards but the equally strong Exiles pack held on and they even snatched a final score on the whistle. As always in Uppsala, a good match played in a friendly atmosphere with a joint photo afterwards.
A big day for the Mabon family as three grandchildren and one of their uncles turned out. Best of the bunch was probably Lancelot at scrum-half who provided a good service and scored a clever try with a dummy and a sprint from the 22. He also got a yellow card for reasons unknown. Jamie had a couple of good runs down the wing, while Alasdair was a very solid lock. Uncle Hamish who came on with 20” to go did not have his best game. At 56 this was about his 15th come-back having over nearly 40 years scored 500 tries for the club, a number which will never be even approached. He started off by dropping a high ball, then got a yellow card 2 minutes later, perhaps for a collective offence, He rounded off his game with a few tackles but at no time showed any sign of adding to his try count.
There was also a welcome return for Rikus who showed up strongly in the backs. All in all a good weekend for Exiles,
The other contest was the Skåne derby between Lugi and Malmö. It was 16 – 12 at half time, with two tries apiece, but the only points after the break came from the boot of Tobias Magnussion who put over four penalties. Malmö are probably the weakest team in the league but Lugi showed it was not a fluke they had beaten Göteborg the week before. We still have three semifinal contenders along with Pingvin.
And so we come to the very close battles: Erikslund och Kalmar Södra who both aspire to the Div. 1 title, together with rivals Göteborg and Spartacus both aiming for a semifinal place in the Championship.
Spartacus had the upper hand jn the first half but their backs were laborious and never looked like scoring. Göteborg had one short attacking period and managed to get in at the corner for the only try of the match. In the second half Göteborg raised their game, their backs were much slicker, but their attacks were not quite good enough to get over the line. All in all a close but deserved win for the home side. I thought the referee in this game was excellent: up with the play, clear and correct decisions, even clearer signals, talked to the players and captains, but no long delays. Sorry, I don´t know his name, but let´s have more of him for the big matches.
Finally, now a farmer club to Enköping, Erikslund. One of their two players who turned out for Enköping last week did not make an appearance, but two good players from Enköping did. David Towler and Elias Granath will no doubt have strengthened the pack considerably. Another Enköping player, Gustav Rådquist, was also included on the team sheet. Haven´t noted if Kalmar Södra had any “farmers”. Erikslund built up a lead of 11 points in the first half hour but Kalmar Södra got a try back just before the break. David Towler then touched down for Erikslund but Kalmar Södra came back again to make it 16 – 12. With 15” to go, Erikslund extended their lead to 23 – 12 and although it was reduced to 23 – 19 the home team held on for a narrow win. Div 1 looks to be quite competitive which is of course a good thing.