The Cyprus Rugby 7s squad travelled to Bar, Montenegro for the Rugby Europe Sevens Conference 2 Championships over the weekend of 15 – 16 June 2024. After some hard-fought matches, Cyprus emerged as winners, beating Slovakia (who they had played in their opening match of the pool stages) 19 – 12. This result means that Cyprus will be promoted to the Conference 1 division next season.

The squad that travelled was a mixture of experience and youth, led by Head Coach Marko Mladenovic assisted by Alex Zavallis-Roebuck, with Physio Lucy Wood and Team Manager Dave Lee making up the staff.

A lot of hard work had been put in behind the scenes over the past 6 months by players and staff to make sure that Cyprus went in to the Championships in the best possible shape and with the best chance of coming away with a win. The players had been given a tough training program to follow which would get them in good physical condition for the rigors of tournament rugby in what turned out to be extremely warm conditions.

A month ago, as part of the preparation for these Championships, Cyprus Rugby 7s entered Manor 7s in England which was part of the LIT 7s series. There they played 4 very tough games against top class opposition which was exactly what they wanted and demonstrated how tournament rugby feels over the course of a day.

Onto Montenegro, and Cyprus was grouped together with Slovakia, Montenegro A and Kosovo, which meant 3 games to play on Day 1.

Cyprus opened the tournament with the first game v Slovakia, which resulted in a 24 – 22 victory. A close final score although the victory was never in doubt.

After a break of 3 hours, the second pool game was v Montenegro A (the hosts). Cyprus tackled this game head-on from the off and never gave Montenegro an opportunity to get a foothold in the game. Some excellent team support play and a couple of individual pieces of skill to break the line and race away for a score meant that Cyprus won 38 – 21.

After a further break, which is normal in tournament play, Cyprus played Kosovo in the final pool game of the day. A fast start saw Cyprus score a couple of early tries and with conversions they had a healthy lead going in to halftime. The second half saw Cyprus really put Kosovo under pressure whilst being clinical and showing that support play is hugely important in the 7s format, eventually running out winners with a final score of 35 – 0.

Day 1 came to a close with only 2 of the 8 competing teams unbeaten, Estonia who topped Pool A and Cyprus who topped Pool B.

The Cyprus Squad, having played well on the pitch, now had to be as professional off the pitch in order to recover properly, refuel and rest so that they were fresh and ready to attack day 2 with the same application and commitment they had done on day 1.

A review of the day’s play was done by the coaching staff, which was then delivered in a team meeting with the squad to highlight a number of learning points and formulate how they wanted the team to play on day 2 in the semi final v Slovenia.

Day 2 got under way with the ranking games for the teams that finished 3rd & 4th in the pools, then the first semi final, which was Estonia v Slovakia, and was won by Slovakia 10 – 0.

Now it was Cyprus’ turn for their semi final v Slovenia.

Cyprus made a racing start to the game and soon had a healthy lead which was never in danger. The players executed the game plan to the letter, playing with flair, moving the ball quickly, supporting each other in attack and seemingly scoring at will. A very powerful performance saw Cyprus run out winners with a final score of 25 – 0.

The last game of the day was the final, but that was some 4 ½ hours away, so the squad needed to manage themselves properly by resting, recovering and fueling correctly so that they would be 100% ready for the final against their opening game opposition, Slovakia who looked strong in their semi final.

The final kicked off and Cyprus immediately found their rhythm, exploiting gaps in the Slovakian defence to establish a 19 – 0 lead at half time. The second half was a long 7 minutes and saw Cyprus withstand pressure from Slovakia who scored two late tries with a conversion making the final score Cyprus 19 – Slovakia 12.

The final was won, and Cyprus were crowned Rugby Europe Conference 2 Champions 2024!

At the conclusion of the tournament, the pool of referees voted the Cyprus Captain, Marcus Holden, Player of the Tournament, which is a great honour for him personally and also a reflection of how the whole squad had performed across both days of the tournament, which helped him reach the heights of performance that he did.

Across the Championships, Cyprus scored a total of 23 tries, which is a reflection of the talent within the squad to finish off good approach play and make it count when it matters.

After the presentation, Head Coach Marko said: “What a feeling this weekend has been. Personally, it’s up there with one of the best feelings I have ever felt being involved with Cyprus Rugby. Lifting that trophy this weekend was a massive achievement for everyone involved. As Coaches, myself and Zav want to thank the players and reiterate how proud we are of the way they went about their business, both on and off the field. They were united in everything they did, smiles on faces, adapted and solved challenges quickly and played with serious determination in both the semi and final.”