Match Report: Cyprus v. Israel.
There was a big build-up to this game.The Moufflons, still smarting from their defeat in Malta two weeks ago, were determined to revive their winning ways in front of the enthusiastic home crowd on the home ground at the Paphiacos Stadium. It was ten years since they had lost narrowly to the Israelis in a promotion play-off which then lead to the much heralded world record of 24 international winning games. So there was an historic aspect to this game.
Cyprus took the field without some of their key players; Mladenovic—the captain—Torgut and Zavallis the regular half-backs, and Antoniou and Efthemiou the speed merchants in the backs. However, coach Binicos was able to call up the services of former captain and prop,Tony Thoma; Burns, brother of the English international, Holden and Luke Peters, all former stars of the Moufflon backs.
The Israelis presented a well honed big side in the pre-match line up and were welcomed by an extremely noisy and boisterous crew of supporters armed with huge national flags and the frightful vuvuzelas, but they were matched by an excellent turnout by the Moufflon supporters that surrounded them.
Within two minutes of the kick-off the Israelis were awarded a penalty in easy kicking distance; the kicker missed but from the drop-out , Amit the Israeli center, crossed the Cypriot line for a try to put 5 points on the board after they failed to convert. Ten minutes later, Holden the Cypriot half-back, struck back with a try which he converted giving the Moufflons a 7-5 lead. The home side were clearly in trouble in the set pieces— an aspect of the game that lead to their heavy defeat in Malta— and struggled manfully to contain the visitors. However, a breakdown following a lost scrum gave the Israelis, through Vitali, another try giving them 10 points to the Cypriots 7.
Cyprus began to muster some cohesion in their play and the veteran, Gorgeous George Agathocleous—a great favourite with the crowd—put in a thunderous sixty meter break which caused the defenders to offend, giving the excellent Holden the penalty kick for another 3 points bring ing the score level at 10-10. The Israelis were more organised and constantly threatened the Cyprus line but the home side tackled like demons. Holden featured again when he challenged and drew the Israeli defence, kicked through them to follow with a touch-down giving the home side the lead once more 15-10 only to see it overturned by Vitali ten minutes later. The game see-sawed until half-time witnessing the Moufflons leaving the pitch with a 1 point lead at 18-17.
A wave of excitment prevailed with many of the supporters believing that the home side would dominate the next half having witnessed how the home backs had penetrated the opposition’s defence.
The main sponsor, 24-7 System, led by Matt Storey and Andy Vick had invited a number of knowledgable guests who were witnessing the Moufflons for the first time and expressed their surprise at the standard of play.
The second half opened with Holden putting winger Luke Peters over for a converted try taking the score to 25-17. With 15 minutes to go the visitors began to dominate, it was clear that the Moufflons were fatigued and the Israelis exploited it. The valiant, Luke Frixou, captain for the day, tried rallying his troops, but the weariness lead to injuries and replacements but the visitors were dominant gaining more ball from the set pieces and turning it into scores by Adrian and Matan. A late penalty gave Holden a chance to increase the Moufflons score to 28 but at the conclusion the Israelis had garnered 38 points with the final score Cyprus 28-Israel 38. Their supporters were exultant.
President of the Federation, Laurence Vassiliades, stated ‘ Given our injuries problems and the need to blood new players, I think we acquitted ourselves well. Clearly there is much to do but I have every confidence that our coaching staff will tackle these problems. Binicos has only had a very limited time to prepare for these games, so I ask our marvellous supporters to understand we have entered a new era, and it will take time to get the blend right’.
Alexander McCowan

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