The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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Rugby: Overseas RUFC host HMS Albion in 7s rugby series

Thursday, 17 November 2022, 13:18 Last update: about 2 years ago

HMS Albion and Maltese rugby club Overseas RUFC met last week in what is a tradition for the local side when a British ship is in port, and played a mini 7s rugby series at MCAST Paola.

A six-team round-robin, with Overseas fielding two teams and HMS Albion fielding four teams ensued and dominated the night.

First to take to the pitch were Overseas A, captained by Andy Cutajar (3), and HMS 1 lead by Alex Ainscough. The sides tussled back and forth with no scores coming in the opening four minutes of the game until some quick hands and hard running lines from HMS 1 broke the line and scored in the corner making it 7-0.

Not long after kick-off, two phases to the left exposed a massive open side running into the other corner to make it 14-0 for HMS 1.  Overseas A looked to be building some good momentum when a turnover in possession led to some quick hands and good thinking to a good crash through the centre making what would be the final score 21-0 to HMS 1.

Next on the field it was Overseas B captained by James Donovan (10) and HMS 2.  It was a nervy start for both sides, with moves not quite sticking leading to a lot of change in possession early on, but a nice floated pass from James Donovan (10) to Willem Willemse (13) using his pace around the outside of his defender to run the length of the field to score 7-0 gave Overseas B the lead.

Overseas B found themselves defending their try line and at points it looked inevitable that they were going to concede, but they found a stroke of luck when an HMS 2 pass bounced off the chest of one of their into the hands of the Overseas B skipper, and with a one-man overlap and nice hands from Jaco Louw (12) who played the ball to Harman Shanil (20) to go over and score the try, making it 14-0 by the final whistle.

Next up was HMS 3 up against HMS 4; a very evenly matched, very intense and heated battle with teammates now facing off against each other. The HMS 3 were determined to put their backs moves to good use early on, with many of them running lines and cutting through HMS 4 and when push came to shove it was too much for them to deal with as HMS 3 dotted down in the middle of the field for a try to make it 7-0.  A quick restart from HMS 3 caught HMS 4 off guard leaving them trailing on the back foot as the ball was swung from one side of the field to the other, leaving HMS 3 with two players alone out wide and a try in the corner to make the game 14-0.

Tournaments like this bring out the best in rugby: beer was flowing and spirits were high leading into Overseas A against HMS 4. Once again the Overseas boys showing great promise, with Louis Francois (11) and Amilcar (23) gaining ground on the fringes and Ethan Xuereb (1) trucking it through the middle but after a scoreless five minutes and a change in possession it was HMS that ran in three very quick tries to cause the upset in the end with a 21-0 final result in their favour.

Next up was Overseas B against HMS 1. Both teams kicked the game off feeling each other out, with HMS 1 showing real aggression in their line speed and Overseas B not rolling over and firing a few punches back.  It was Overseas B who found themselves under the pump on their own line and a Harman Shanil (20) attempted interception results in a knock-on which allowed HMS 1  to touch the ball down for the first try of the game, making the score 7-0.

Overseas B were looking to strike back but Jaco Louw (12) threw a wide ball to James Donovan (10) which was picked off by HMS 1 who looked to capitalise off the mistake and a few phases later they went round the outside with some soft hands to put the winger through in the corner making it 14-0.

With the last minute on the clock, it was in the final play of the game that the determined Overseas B side were looking to not leave the match empty handed. A quick switch in play by Andrew Howie (9) and James Donovan (10) set up a one-man overlap on the wing that was finished off by Jaco Louw (12) in the corner to see the game out with the final score at 14-7: Overseas B being defeated but determined.

In the interim, HMS 2 played HMS 3 in what was another heated match. These boys were preparing for a game themselves in the coming days and they used this as an opportunity to practice under real game like pressure. As was the nature of the tournament, early points did not come easy with each side going blow for blow. In fact, it took an interception from the Bloemfontein centre from HMS 3 to power through the line and pick up the first points of the game to make the score 7-0.

With the game looking to be a cagy affair it was again the same Bloemfontein bludger that hit a hard line setting up a wide pass to the Connacht boy on the wing to make the score 14-0 to HMS 3, which is the way it ended both side unwilling to give an inch.

The competition was drawing to a close and more beer hydration hit the boys as they entered HMS 3 against Overseas B, who were desperate to bounce back from their last defeat. They started the game well with Marcel Postma (5) giving them front foot ball by running great lines to draw in defenders, and the pressure paid off when Hayden Enstrom (15) broke through to set up Harman Shanil (20) who went on a run only to knock the ball on in the tackle. It was a great contest but still no points but then the flood gates opened with tries from Willem Willemse (13) Hayden Enstrom (15) and James Donovan (10) turning game quickly on its head. Overseas B therefore triumphed with a 21-0 scoreline when the referee called time on what was an interesting and highly entertaining match.

The final two matches of the night were inter-club matches, with HMS1 playing HMS 2 in the penultimate game. Encouraged by their unbeaten run, HMS 1 wanted to see out the competition as outright winners with no defeats but HMS 2 were not going to roll over and let them have everything their own way. In fact, it was HMS 2 who took early blood with a barnstorming run through the middle and a nice short support line to make it 7-0 after two minutes. The game was an arm wrestle back and forth, with the ball flying through the air as HMS 1 used their line speed to tie up the game at 7-7 with five minutes on the clock. HMS 2 were really trying to put an end to HMS 1’s winning streak and started throwing caution to the wind.  That however played into the hands of HMS 1, who picked off what was the final pass in the final play of the match to score the winning try and secure the series with a 14-7 win. 

The final game of the night saw the two Overseas teams go toe to toe, with both teams looking to end on a high and take the bragging rights. It was Overseas B who took the first blood through a nice slicing run from Hayden Enstrom (15) who set up a try for Andrew Howie (9) – his first of the night – to make it 7-0, after just one minute played. Overseas A looked to damage their counterparts into submission when sending a barrage of forwards running at them, with Andy Cutajar (3) then Ethan Xuereb (1) then Cutajar (3) again bullying their way up the field. Some brave defending however led to the ball being turned over, and quick thinking from Jaco Louw (12) gave James Donovan (10) the ball in open field when he brushed off the attempts of two tacklers to dot down for his first try of the game to make the score 14-0.

From the restart the ball was used in one phase on the left before finding its way back to Overseas B’s captain of the night James Donovan (10) who went over completely unopposed to score his second in the game and make the score 21-0.  Hopes were dwindling for the Overseas A team and it was looking like another big loss was on the cards, but then quick thinking from the restart and beautifully soft hands from Andy Cutajar (3) to Amilcar (23) who fixed his man to put Leander Hili (14) in for Overseas A’s first try of the tournament to make the score 21-7.

It was Overseas B who would have the last laugh of the tournament though as sniffing the hat-trick, James Donovan took a run from deep in his own half to run between three defenders and close off the night with an impressive hat-trick, leaving Overseas B triumphant with the final score at 28-7.

With the tournament over, the beers drunk and the socials underway all's well that ends well proving that if a group of lads want to play rugby it doesn't matter where or how, the spirit of the game will always find a way and there will always be fun to be had.

A massive thank you went to HMS Albion who showed up in numbers to give the Overseas lads an opportunity to play against different opposition, and to Overseas who against all odds were able to facilitate the tournament.

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