Saturday marked the return of the Lugi men’s first (and only) XV to the hallowed turf of Centrala Idrottsplatsen. Some last minute changes to the events of the day brought our boys up against Göteborg, who must be thanked for sending players in lieu of Kalmar.

We’d all been looking forward to Saturday. We had dared to hope for gorgeous weather; for the sunshine and blue skies that would have been just reward for having suffered through the Swedish winter. We had all hoped for it, but sadly it was not to be. What started off as an overcast morning quickly turned into an overcast afternoon, broken with sporadic fog and persistant drizzle.

And so it was under these horrible conditions that the Lugi boys marched out onto the pitch, respendent, nonetheless, in their new maroon strip.

The atmosphere was heavy, both with anticipation and with the acrid smoke of seared pig flesh. Göteborg and Lugi looked happy to be back on grass. The teams drew sides and Göteborg prepared to kick. Players hustled, the more experienced shouted instructions to the less, the whistle blew, and the modest crowd, silent, watched as the ball sailed over the heads of the Lugi tight five, only to dribble into touch.

And so the tempo for the day was set: slippery conditions made for poor ball security and from the outset both teams struggled to string phases together. Rugby balls were dropped, bounced off chests and shoulders and time and again were spilt forward in contact. At times the game seemed little more than fumbles and scrums.

This turned out disastrously for the Lugi boys. In lineouts we failed to secure our own ball and were unable to adapt when Göteborg jumped at four instead of two. Scrums too were disappointing. We were driven back on the loosehead side, and wheeled through the tight. This instability effected every part of our attacking game.

The importance of building a solid platform at scrum and lineout time can not be understated. This is something that we will have to work on in the coming weeks – it is no use having a mobile forward pack if we can’t win our own ball from stoppages.

And so Sebastian “The Nugget” Hylander must be commended for making good under unenviable conditions. With a composure and persistance that is tough to teach Sebastian proved himself on the park. He communicated well with the forwards and was able to link up with the backs, never mind the fact that it was his first match.

At the end of the game the opposition scrum-half approached one of the Lugi coaches. He said that for the first ten minutes he had made life difficult for Sebastian and that the poor lad had not known how to react. But, he added, for the remaining 70 minutes, not only had Sebastian taken steps to counter these efforts, he had in fact turned them around. Did you hear that? There is only so much that we can teach you at training. If you are not prepared to play on Saturday, your rugby will not develop.

Lugi’s rather poor performance during the first half wasn’t simply the fault of the forwards however. For one, our kicks must find touch. This includes those rushed left foot kicks that fail to clear Lugi’s appalingly small in-goal area, but it also includes kicks from penalty, and returns from opposition clearing kicks. There are a number of people who need to work on this.

Additionally our inside backs proved unable to hold depth in attack. And yet they expressed surprise that their efforts had been met with a rush defense.

When the weather is bad and the forwards backpeddling, flat and wide running lines will not win games; we need to be able to attack short and in depth as well. In the future, we must be more quick to aknowledge the conditions of the day and adapt our approach accordingly.

Thankfully, many of the other problems on the park can be reduced to body height: body height in defense, body height in scrums, body height in support and when running with the ball. This is something that we will work on at training this week.

Defensively, “Casanova” Lednor was solid, as always, and “Mr. Marathon” Mackay made a number of great cover tackles. With the singlular exception of an altercation with a fellow countryman, Paolo Cifani led admirably and by example.

What new players Javier “The Pain” Heredero and Alvaro “Manuell” Cerrato lacked in technique and experience they more than made up for in sheer determination. I can think of numerous occasions when a raised Göteborg palm was valiently brought to a sudden and abrupt halt by the fearless force of a Lugi face. Believe me when I tell you, my lovely Lugis, you will find defense a more effective and less painful undertaking when conducted with the shoulders.

Some other moments of individual brilliance include:

  • Silvan’s use of the boot to put Miika “Moneyman” Mäki over for his third try in as many games.
  • Likewise, “Zinzan” Leishman’s devastating grubber kick proved uniquely capable of penetrating the defensive line of the Göteborg pack. Had he not been cynically taken out by three opposition players, Rob would (no doubt) have collected the ball and crossed for what would have (no doubt) been the try of the year.
  • Late appearances from Viktor “I don’t get hangovers” Cordes and Dion “Mummelmann” Granström added significantly to the leadership on the park and helped to lift the performance for the second half.

Final score: Lugi 5, Göteborg 26. Tries: Miike Mäki. Best on: Sebastian Hylander.

The game was followed by some lively festivities and shirtless antics that I trust will set the tone for a fun year.

See you all Monday and Thursday at Centrala Idrottsplatsen at 6pm.