Now it´s Enköping´s turn to take the long trip down to Skåne while Exiles go a quarter of the way, to Norrköping. After pushing themselves to their intellectual limits the SRF has finally got the correct points for the four “Superteams” after round 2: Exiles 9, Pingvin 7, Enköping 5 and Troján 0. I have a feeling round 3 will see the gap widening between the top two and the bottom two although I wouldn´t bet the house on this outcome.
I mentioned in my previous blog that all four teams are suffering from long-term injuries and that these could well contribute to this week´s results. A further complication is that one club could have as many as three suspensions for foul play in coming weeks.
With two bonus points last week, Pingvin lost the game to Exiles but are still only two points behind. That´s the whole point of the bonus system of course; a loss of 24 – 26 should be worth more than a loss of 0 – 26. Sadly, perhaps the worst injury last week befell flanker Nathaniel Cickovsky. He missed a tackle on the massive Exile Theo Karlsson and his jaw struck Theo´s heel. Result – a jaw broken in two places and almost certainly the end of his season. He has, I am sure, the best wishes of all Swedish rugby enthusiasts and the hope that it will not be too long before he is back to full capacity. We´ll see on Saturday how many others are having to take some time off, the first half in Trelleborg last week lasted exactly one hour, i e 20” for injury stoppages. The Pingvin team incidently, had seven Swedes, seven Giorgians and a New Zealander. They played not badly last week, but were outclassed in the first half by a free flowing Exile´s attack. Exiles had six fairly serious injuries by the second half and Pingvin came back strongly to almost reverse the result.
Enköping fielded a large pack in their first game but were pushed all over the field by Exiles. They weren´t much better in round 2 when a weakened Troján still seemed to have the edge in the set pieces. I think they will be mauled by the Pingvin pack on Saturday and will at best share the lineouts. The main problem for Enköping will be the backs. As the game drew to a close, Tim Johansson ran straight into a Troján player and floored him without any attempt at a tackle. Most unlike Tim, but without any doubt a red-card offense. He has now been banned, but only for the Pingvin game. Tim has been the key figure for Enköping and to some extent the national team this year and is irreplaceable for the club. Top player Cameron King went off in the second half of the first round and only came on for the last few minutes of round 2. He is obviously not quite 100% fit and this will also reduce Enköping´s scoring potential. Another problem down the line is that two further backs have been reported for stamping on an Exile´s player on the ground in round 1. This will be dealt with next week but, looking at the video, it could also lead to suspensions.
I don´t think Enköping will be able to stand up to Pingvin and their scoring potential will be greatly reduced by Tim´s absence. I think Pingvin will win, perhaps even with a bonus point.
Exiles play their third away game in a row, because of problems involving capacity at Gubbängen. To win this one as well would put them in the driver´s seat for an 11th title in a row after a quarter of the games played, but there is of course a long way to go. Exiles lost six players to injury in last week´s match, some of them serious. Among others, Mak Jelec Dozo and Sean Burke both dislocated their shoulders, Glendon du Plessis tore a tendon in his knee and Thulani Gushman suffered a concussion. In addition Ian Gowland injured himself while training with the national 7s team last week. Unfortunately, Sean, perhaps Sweden´s best player in recent years, could be out for the season. Glendon has been operated this week while Sean got everything back in place and undamaged but it was a long, arduous task and he will need time to recover. The remaining four will be back by the Autumn. Exiles are, however, able to bring in five other internationals this week and at worst will only have a marginally weakened team. In fact, in some ways a stronger one.
A word of praise for some Exiles´ members. With two players in hospital overnight, it proved impossible to get any form of public transport, flight, rail, or rented car back from Skåne on Sunday at the end of the long holiday. So two of our fine Georgians, Levan and Uscha, took the train back to Stockholm on Saturday, then turned around and drove back to Skåne. They picked up the two injured and Anders Swärd who had spent the weekend rushing around hospitals drove all four back to Stockholm on the Sunday. I´m proud to belong to a club where players, supporters and committee members are prepared to work selflessly for other club members in an emergency.
For Troján, Sami Paulsson their international No 8 will I think be off a bit longer but I don´t know what the position is with their halvbacks. I feel a bit sorry for star winger Alex Melander who has to move around the backs to fill holes for Sweden and Troján. He is an out and out winger and should be given a chance to develop his skills there. I have mentioned before that Troján rely on a number of players from farmer club Kalmar Södra but I should point out that that does not weaken Troján´s team. Armir Kozhani, Niclas Crona and Adam C. are all knocking on the door for (further) international honours. I feel, however, that Troján´s traditional forwards have been running out of steam a bit, perhaps not quite so motivated when facing Old Father Time. They have been helped by the addition of jumper Christopher Sidgwick, but I think both Exiles´ and Pingvin´s packs are stronger and more dynamic.
This is an important game for both sides. A win will help Troján make contact with the other teams while a win for Exiles will confirm their status as leaders and favourites. Losses will mean a probable also ran role for Troján or a probable second place behind Pingvin for Exiles. If Exiles can play like they did in the first half against Pingvin I think they will win, with perhaps even another bonus point.
After this Saturday there will be a gap of five weeks until round 4 of the Superseries and then a further four weeks before round 5. This will then be the start of five grueling rounds in a row while the last three rounds will be played every other week. A ridiculous summer gap due once again to the gross incompetence of the SRF, who couldn´t organize a sevens tournament in a brewery. But at least it will help some of the players to recover from their various ailments.