By Alexander McGowan
The Cyprus Moufflons secured the bowl in the European Sevens Trophy in Romania on Sunday, proving they are still a force to be reckoned with.
Sevens is a fast and furious short form of the big game – now registered as an Olympic Sport, which has energised many countries not normally associated with the oval ball, but having the financial resources to develop a formula 1 side. Last year Cyprus – with a depleted squad and empty pockets – reached the European final in Poland and narrowly lost to the hosts that receive a whopping €300,000 per year to cover expenses and development.
The European Trophy is played over two weekends in June and involves twelve countries; the tournament started in Czech Republic and finished in Bucharest in Romania. The competitors play for a cup, plate, bowl and shield. There are three pools comprising four countries and the winning teams advance to the cup, while the four quarter-finalists drop into the plate, leaving the third and fourth finishers to contest the bowl, with the losing bowl competitors to fight over the shield.
The Moufflons acquitted themselves well in the first round finishing mid-table after beating Lithuania, Moldova and drawing with Luxembourg. Over the second round, they unfortunately drew Sweden -competition winner – losing 35-5. But then going on to beat Czech Republic 22-7 and Moldova 19-0 to secure the bowl. A great result considering the Czechs are ranked at 30th and Moldovan’s 37th in the world ratings with Cyprus standing at 71.
Ruaridh Pye, the national coach, praised his team: “Given our resources and limited pool from which to draw the players, this was a very creditable result. It is particularly revealing that a country like Sweden, not usually associated with the game, can beat Romania – a country once knocking on the six nations door – on their home turf. Sevens is the fastest growing team game in the world because of the Olympic factor, and competitions like this will become increasingly challenging and will attract more young people which must be a very good thing for the game in Cyprus and elsewhere.”
Outgoing president, Laurence Vasiliades, said: “What a good result. The effort that goes into competing is truly punishing; there are no hiding places or opportunities to rest in this game. It is full-on commitment, and they don’t come more committed than this team of Moufflons, I am very proud to have been associated with them.”
Vasiliades hands over to Johnny Stavrinou, but will continue his coaching association with the Nicosia Academy.
Cyprus Sevens Squad: Michaelis Maratheftis, Marcus Holden, Andy Seyham Fell, Dimitris Grigoriou, George Agathocleous, Luke Frixou, Mark0o Mladenovic, Matt King, Theo Gravielidis, Steve Awah, Chris Joannou, Alex Zavallis. Coach Ruaridh Pye.
Next year the Moufflons enter European Conference Division 2 South that contains Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Austria.