By Alexander McCowan
THE newly-formed Nicosia Barbarians Rugby Football Club has taken part in a competition involving the British and Argentine military contingent on the United Nation compound in Nicosia.
The Baa-Baas have already played two Cyprus Federation League games against military opposition in the form of the British based troops at Ayios Nicolaus in the eastern region and Episkopi on their Happy Valley pitch in the Limassol district.
The Nicosia side is comprised mainly of students from the University of Cyprus and the medical schools of University of Nicosia and St. George’s University with some old veterans like Laurence Vasiliades, the president of the Cyprus Rugby Federation, who still has a few points to make.
The team is well coached by Chris Thoma, a current Cyprus international and brother of the national captain, Tony Thoma.
The Thomas’ learned their rugby in South Africa and are undoubtedly instrumental in the amazing success of the Cyprus national team that holds the world record for consecutive international winning games.
The Baa-Baas are also fortunate in securing the services of Dino Hadjichristoforous as backs coach, who is a former top-class South African player – who is now studying Physiotherapy in Nicosia – whose knees no longer enjoy the game.
One aspect of the Barbarian game which is drawing admiration from the opposition is the quality of their defence.
In a game the previous week against the hugely experienced Episkopi side, full of sturdy Fijians that have played together for years, the Nicosians left the field having scored three tries against four for the opposition: a very creditable result according to the watching military.
On Saturday, major Jorge Etienot, the veteran driving force of the Argentines, seeking to cement relationships with the newly arrived British contingent through the freemasonry of rugby, decided to add local colour to the occasion by adding the enthusiasm of the Barbarians to the mix.
The spectators were rewarded with a display of open rugby not generally encountered in the grinding mills of the Cyprus Rugby League.
A blend of Argentine experience and Cypriot speed and agility constantly challenged the British but teamwork prevailed with the ever-present Waqa and skipper Gary Windle feasting on breakdowns in the game and putting 17 points on the board before half-time.
The game flowed freely with all sides using a constant stream of replacements to ensure a thoroughly enjoyable experience for the visiting Barbarians and at the conclusion there were 30 points on the board, but who’s counting.
Major Etienot praised the Barbarians claiming: “They play with such enthusiasm and have developed an extremely good defence in the very short period of their existance.”
Windle, a trialist for the full Army side that will compete with the Moufflons next month, said: “I can see the Barbarians developing into a highly competent side.”
Laurence Vasiliades – who must surely be the only serving international president still playing the game, stated: “The Barbarians are a team in a hurry. We have only been in contention officially for a month and even though we are constantly building, it is a massive learning curve.
“Remember many of these young guys come from a football background, and the ethos surrounding rugby is somewhat different.
“For instance there is a cameraderie involved in rugby that we are trying to engender in our young players so we have established a home club at Murphy’s bar in Engomi, Nicosia where we go after our home games and Thursday night training for refreshment and post game analysis and to meet new members.
“Rugby is the fastest growing team sport in the world and we want more young Cypriots to come and join us. Spread the word”.
By Alexander McCowan