Thoughts on rugby from Hunter Mabon Senior

Tag: Pingvin

Great end to (Male) season

Exiles have not had the best of seasons, with a horrendous list of injuries still not resolved. Against an inspired opposition they did well to take a sixth title, however and if truth be told Pingvin never quite looked as if they could pull off a sensational victory.

Exiles coach Henry van Niekerk is trying to introduce a bit of flair to Swedish rugby. It was great to see the final team presented individually on Facebook, to have a jersey presentation before the game, a great Exiles promotional film was shown as pre-match motivation and to have about 30 of the Exiles youngsters lined up to cheer the team on to the pitch. The weather was of course a disaster, but Stockholm can be like that in October, and a crowd of about 300 congregated to see the Championship decider. A lot of freebies of course and nothing like the 550 paying down in a sunny Trelleborg.Pingvin started strongly with a certain amount of ping-pong as both teams kicked for position. One such kick by Dustin gave a penalty which Neill converted after 8”. Kicking from both sides continued with Pingvins scrum-half Matthew Keene finding touch near the line on several occasions.

Half-way through the first half Exiles seemed to be getting on top but Pingvin kicked themselves into a penalty position which they failed to convert. On 28” Pingvin had a first dangerous attack from their backs but strong tackling snuffed it out.
The Exiles No 8 Franco then had one of his trademark runs and Exiles were beginning to seriously challenge the Pingvin line. Keane got back several times as a last line of defence when Exiles seemed likely to score and there was a huge miss by Exiles on 33” when the ball was dropped a few yards from the line with a two-man overlap.

The Exiles pack completely dominated in the set pieces as in the first final, but the lineouts were letting them down again and giving Pingvin possession. They used this to kick to the corner and a sustained period of pressure was exerted before centre Erik Arvidsson found a gap to score on the halftime whistle. Campbell converted and it was 7 – 3 to the visitors. Exiles probably had the edge in the first half but it was a tough attritional battle with very little between the two teams.

The second half was uneventful in terms of points but both teams were fighting for their lives. Exiles were still 5 points ahead on aggregate but a converted try would give Pingvin the title. Play ranged back and forward in the middle of the pitch with Exiles once again just having territorial advantage. Penalties were missed by both sides. Exiles continued to push Pingvin back yards in every scrum and they were beginning to win more and more lineouts. I don´t think Pingvin were ever in the Exiles 22m. in the second half, the nearest being a positional kick landing just outside.

With the clock ticking, Neill finally put over another penalty to put Exiles 8 points or two scores ahead. With only a couple of minutes to go it was soon all over and Exiles had retained their title. Probably the best game of the season with easily the two best teams fighting it out to the death. The weather was a factor of course with a number of passes dropped but you have to be able to play in all weathers to win titles. The referee Jacob Bäverstam handled the game well and it was played in an excellent spirit.

For Pingvin, scrum-half Matthew Keane is half the team (it is still not clear if he will be returning next year) and the two centres Micah Barber and Erik Arvidsson worked hard all afternoon. Lock Oscar Larsson had some bullocking runs when standing in the backs and a special word for debutant hooker Anthony Raphael aged 19, who was under pressure in the scrum throughout but still managed to do very well in open play.

For Exiles, Dustin was his usual steady self and Ian was always dangerous when coming into the line from fullback. The back row was excellent with Neex always near the ball and Franco always threatening. And well done the various front rows who have been unchallenged all season.

The trophy was presented by SRF chairperson Madeleine Lahti, after what is believed to be the first time she has ever seen Exiles play. SRF board member Pasi Niemelä has also written an excellent match report along with coverage of other matches.

Pingvin – Exiles on Youtube

Thanks once again to Pingvin for getting both their home matches available in no-time. A paying crowd of over 500 was excellent but there are probably quite a few more who will want to watch the matches electronically.

I´ve watched the Men´s game, won by Exiles 17 – 8 a couple of times. I don´t think I have ever seen a team so outclassed for such long periods and who still only lost by 9 points. But Exiles have to some extent only themselves to blame, which I´ll return to.
Exiles started off playing into a very strong wing in the first half but still dominated play completely. Exiles were in the Pingvin half for well over 30 minutes, they pushed the Pingvin pack all over the place, their backs were much sharper in attack and they were much faster on the ball in loose play. Pingvin just saved two or three tries with desperate defence on the line and were extremely lucky to get to the break only 10 – 3 down. Exiles continued to dominate in the second, were camped on the line from the start and finally made it 17 – 3 with another pushover try on 52”. Pingvin´s problems were compounded from the kick-off when one of their props was red-carded, presumably for tackling a player in the air. Exiles then brought on most of their bench but continued to pound the Pingvin line. How they failed to score two or three tries is a mystery, but credit must go to the Pingvin defence which performed heroically. Pingvin were hardly more than 30 metres from their line for the first half-hour, but in the last 7 – 8 minutes they worked their way up the field, mainly by being awarded a series of penalties, the count was 11 – 4 in their favour in the second half. And with last play of the game their scrum-half was able to stroll over in the corner with a new scrum-half, a new flanker and a non-existent winger unable to stop him. Extremely careless!
Exiles lost the penalty count 17 – 8 (a reversal of the points score) and this is something they must work on for next week. Exiles just had the edge in the lineout in the first half but won just one of their throw-ins in the second half (of about six) and once again this should be improved. I´m not sure why most of our star forwards were replaced either, although there is a problem here. You can´t ask young men to travel 650 km and then not give them some time on the pitch, which Exiles always do.
And perhaps once again the final explanation for the low points lead: the narrow pitch which makes it very difficult to create gaps on the outside. We´ll see how it goes on the wide open spaces of Årsta on Saturday.
All in all, this was Exiles best team of the year and their best performance. If they can iron out the above-mentioned blemishes we could see something special at Årsta.
A couple of words about the Ladies. They dominated in much the same way as the Men, but won by 6 tries to 1 instead of 2 – 1 for the Men.
Vänersborg recorded what seemed to be a comfortable win against Enköping, 26 – 8 and yet Enköping consider they were the better team on the day. We´ll see how things pan out next week in Stockholm and Vänersborg.

Author: HM senior

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