rugby 6

Malta v. Cyprus. K.O. 2-30 29th. October in Valletta.
On Saturday the Cyprus Moufflons encounter their island rivals, the Maltese, away. This will be a very tough encounter with a seasoned side that have already beaten all the opposition in the newly formed European Conference Division 1 South: Croatia, Andorra and Israel.
At the end of last season when Cyprus had to beat Hungary (15-3) to stay up, they were unaware that the European Rugby Authority were busy restructuring the European Leagues. It was decided to divide the countries into northern and southern sides, so that Cyprus, struggling to stay in European Nations Cup league 2B, found itself in a division that contained three countries that previously occupied League 2A, which seemed like a promotion—an interesting feature of the restructuring, is if the Moufflons are relegated, they will be in Division 2B where they will meet Turkey, which should provide an interesting game. Last week Malta played Andorra away and put 63 points on them scoring 9 tries; Andorra only managing 3 penalties. The Moufflons lost 22-13 to Andorra in April.
At last it seems the Cyprus Federation has finally resolved the problem of the vanishing coaches by selecting one from within; none other that the obvious choice for many, the veteran Andy Binicos, the man who has literally shed blood for his country. Those followers of the Moufflons will recall the dreadful injuries he has suffered, the treble leg fracture, in Georgia, the broken arm in Poland, numerous concussions while earning his corn as a professional in Scotland—captain, coach, player-coach. Bini’s pedigree is peerless: rugby schooled in South Africa; representing university and Natal Sharks; captain and coach at Currie in the Scottish B.P. Premier division—when he first appeared for Cyprus as play-maker, it was observed by one of the committee, that Bini ‘played for a different planet’. No coach can know the strengths and weaknesses of the Moufflons better than the ‘Bini’ but he has a daunting task.
Another sunbeam shining on the cash-strapped Federation is the emergence of a new sponsor: the Paphos based ‘Twenty4Seven Security System Ltd.’ that are committed to providing the best for the team.
Laurence Vasilliades, President of the Cyprus Federation, remains sanguine; ‘We find ourselves in an extraordinary situation. At the end of last season we were struggling to stay up, but now we are lodged in a superior division, containing the best of the southern sides, including our ‘bete noir’, Israel, which will bring out the best in our lads. The teams will be a little rusty but I anticipate a good performance and I am sure we will rise to the occasion’.
This new league structure differs from the previous groups in that it is concluded in a single year, each team playing their rivals twice.
An interesting event occurred last week-end on Sky/Sports Television when the panel were discussing the forthcoming New Zealand v. Australia game, mentioned that the All Blacks would challenge for the world record of consecutive winning international games, only for Steve Hanson, the redoubtable New Zealand coach, to point out that the record was still firmly in the hands of the mighty Moufflons (24). Which was probably inspired by the article in the previous day’s edition of the New Zealand Herald by Chris Rattue under the heading ‘Cyprus still streaks ahead of the All Blacks’. Strange old world when the New Zealand press know more about the fortunes of the Moufflons then the Cypriots do.
Alexander McCowan.

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