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Dominant Moufflons take Greece apart
THE Cyprus national rugby team showed little sympathy for their Hellenic brothers in crisis, when they annihilated them by 72-5 in Paphos on Saturday in their Division 2C clash.
Team manager Theo Lenos stated: “The level of improvement in our team is clearly reflected in this game; last year the score was 31-13, today we are out of sight. We have one more game against Finland to complete our season and then we are promoted.
“The team spirit and camaraderie is like nothing else I have encountered in a lifetime in the game, each player is not only dedicated to their country but to each other. Next year will be very interesting.”
The game set off at an electric pace for Cyprus with mercurial full-back Marcus Holden crossing the try line after only two minutes, with winger Matt King repeating the move three minutes later taking the score to 10-0 after five minutes.
On the ten minute mark Reno Ioannides, who plays his rugby in France, touched down close to the uprights which led to an easy conversion from Holden.
Two more scores followed from the backs, ‘Gorgeous George’ Agathocleous, and another from Matt King took the game to 27-0 with only 23 minutes on the clock.
The speed and mobility of the backs shredded the opposition whose tackling skills could only be described as weak, however, this kind of ball distribution can never be achieved without superb work in the set pieces - scrums and lineouts.
The pack were so dominant that the opposition were reduced to infringements that caused the sin-binning of the huge second-row forward, Chatzis, shortly before half-time.
Indiscipline like this against such a superior side is instantly punished as was emphasised by Ioannides, who took the score to 32 without reply by the time the teams left the pitch for the break.
Shortly into the second half, former Limassol Crusader, Phidias Efthymiou, crossed for a try that was converted by Holden.
Both sides substituted their props with Panagiotou coming on for Vatikiotis and the veteran Dinu Floredan replacing the excellent Kasabi. The Greek substitutions made little difference to their performance however.
The Moufflon back row was everywhere, their defence and handling was outstanding, therefore it was not surprising to witness Pontypool captain, Chris Dicomides touching down on the left taking the score to 44-0.
This back row activity was shortly curtailed by Spanish referee Atorrasagasti sending off Chris Thoma for ten minutes over a late tackle on the Greek scrum-half, but to ensure he wasn't short of company the egregious Chatzis joined him after being red-carded.
Back row activity again saw Marco Mladanovic on the score-sheet with ‘Gorgeous’ George converting to bring the score to 51 without response.
At this stage Paul Shanks, the national coach thought it appropriate to use all his bench and the fresh legs led to another flurry of tries with Agathocleous touching down after a tremendous solo effort, converted by Holden: Score: 56-0.
In the latter stages the Greeks made a rally and their best forward Platon Mosiades touched down near the Cyprus posts but it went unconverted.
Holden who had opened the scoring for the Moufflons scored two superb tries in the dying minutes, both of which he converted to leave the field with a hat-trick and a personal score of 25 points.
The watching crowd was swelled by the attendance of the Alpha Dometicos school from Dali that witnessed their first full scale international rugby match and were presented with a new match ball by Laurence Vassiliades, the Cyprus Rugby Federation president, which was accepted by the head-mistress.
The entire match was filmed by LTV and witnessed by the news-team from the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation.
Paul Shanks, the national coach, appeared drained at the end of the game but was emphatic in his praise for the team: "I know that the score-line suggests an easy passage, but this is only achieved by dedicated hard work.
“The lads have done everything I asked of them and more. This is one of the most committed sides I have worked with and I look forward to the challenges arising from our promotion next season.
“We must remember that each division is harder than the last and nothing must be taken for granted. I know that there is speculation about the team, but we will take each game as it comes.”
For his part, Vassiliades said: "This is the culmination of two years of hard work. I am so fortunate to be supported by a dedicated committee that make all this possible.
“Do not forget it requires many, many hours of planning and total commitment to reach this level of success.
“We are all so proud of our team and coaches that do so much with so little, in terms of financial support, yet go on winning game after game. Next season... who knows.”