Following the loss to Malmö two weeks ago I asked some big questions of the Lugi men’s team. Our forwards were asked to take responsibility for their poor performance in the scrums and lineouts. Our backs were asked to organise themselves in defense, particularly out wide. As a team, I highlighted the detrimental effect that our flagging spirit, poor communication and ill-discipline had on the result of the game.
I am pleased to report, dearest reader, that these questions were answered in a resoundingly fashion at the four training sessions that followed: the Anderssons, Niklas and Magnus, threw at the crossbar for forty-five minutes before every session; our backline cohered under the tutelage of Sylvain Touze and Antonio Privetera; and our ghost rugby was some of the most fluid I have seen. Going into the game on Saturday I was quietly confident that we were fielding the most committed and spirited Lugi men’s team seen for many years.
Karlstad, having had experience at a higher division, were expected to play with considerable force and experience. They would be a big team; heavy in the forwards, strong at the set piece.
And during the first twenty to thirty minutes, Karlstad did indeed have the upper hand. They attacked well at the fringes of the ruck, their first-five was dynamic in space, they were opportunistic in returning our probing kicks and their crashball centre was vicious when crashing the ball – with Lomuesque ease he at one point bumped “Catt” Cordes somewhere into the second half. But the Lugi tackling was again superb. “Sticky Fingers” Lednor let no one go untouched. Similarly “No Homo” Mytton, “Preacherman” Imberg and “Who?” Jewitt. Again our defensive organisation was sloppy early, but again we were lucky and our opposition failed to take advantage of opportunities out wide.
As their big men failed to make ground, frustrations mounted for the Karlstad side. Their line turned flat and beyond third phase their tactics dissolved into little more than hit the fringes and draw the penalty.
Sustained pressure was rewarded for Lugi as poor communication in Karlstad’s attacking line allowed Sylvain “The Schnoz” to pinch the ball from between his opposite centres and run-in a 60 meter try. He was shortly thereafter interfered with by “Sticky Fingers” Lednor (much, so I’m told, to the consternation of some envious Lionesses) and had to spend the remainder of the day in Lund Universitetssjukhuset’s infamously tardy emergency waiting room.
Set pieces were a great improvement on last week. Despite being lighter man-for-man, good technique ensured that Lugi put on an entertaining scrum battle. Our early dominance forced Karlstad to sacrifice fitness in the front row for strength and experience. Their interchange – while welcomed to the park in proper front row fashion – soon settled and Lugi found themselves going backwards. This insecurity continued for the remainder of the game. Our failings were due to this powerful tight-head, but also to an improper engage at the second row. Scrummaging is where the tone of the match is often declared and your humble match-report-writer feels saddened that we had no parry or ripost to counter this Karlstad thrust.
Lineouts were fantastic to watch. Niklas “Phil Kearns” Andersson has developed an astoundingly accurate throw in the last two weeks. With “Jack” Carlsson as the front jumper – and his sturdy prop-lifters either side – we seem to at last have found the solution to our lineout problems – a combination that will weather the loss of our exchange students in coming weeks. In the second half we were able to win or disrupt many Karlstad balls and the only error on our part came at an uncontested short-man throw to four. Not bad at all considering what we saw in Malmö.
With a solid platform “Chip” Thylander was able to settle into the patterns of strong communication and reliable phase turning for which he is fast becoming known. The speed with which our plucky Swedish scrum half continues to learn our great sport is astounding and the mistakes he makes, need to be made; they are mistakes that everyone makes early in their rugby career, the mistakes he has until now, not had the opportunity to make. Developing a backline requires exposure to rugby and so we will endeavor to maximise this by focusing on full contact drills in coming weeks.
For the last ten minutes of the first half and the first thirty of the second, Lugi kept the ball in hand and played an entertaining and entrepreneurial brand of rugby. “General” Andy Mackay was brilliant in moving the ball around the park. On Lund’s short home ground his kicking game continues to impress; on more than one occasion it was the “General’s” boot that got us out of trouble. It was, sadly, Andy’s last game with the club, and his presence will be sorely missed. “The General” has the ability to attack in the same direction, building the tension until the gaps open up and the ball can come back open – a fact for which “Parisse” Cifani owes his first try of the day.
But he was not the only person making territory in the backline. “Catt” Cordes, while sloppy early, dropped his shoulders in the second half and had little difficulty drawing in the defenders and creating space out wide. You will forgive him, I’m sure, if he only made one pass all day: a backhanded flick out of contact that trickled past its intended receiver only to be gathered by Alec “JP” Rose and run-in on the flag. It was a miraculously fortuitous try and I was tempted by it to award the (not entirely sarcastic) nickname of “Sonny Bill” Cordes. I will however save this precious antipodean accolade for a later date.
Proper recognition for ball disposal in contact must go to Adam Borg. Coming on as a replacement for “The Schnoz”, Adam played first at centre and then at wing. In both positions he displayed his quiet but uncanny gift for the game, both in defense and in attack – on several occasions he was able to offload the ball and keep the phases turning well beyond the point they had any right to do so. Surely his performance this weekend dispels any questions his absence from the game might have raised. While not the quickest outside back in our lineup, Adam also taught us another important lesson: to paraphrase “Parisse”, the wingers are a one-bullet shotgun fired at the corner flag and should carry the arrogance to think of themselves as such. Back yourself.
Having forwards with experience in the backline is a massive advantage when ball security is good and the phases start building. When he wasn’t busy dazzling us with his oratory and musical gifts, “Jack” Carlsson reminded us that he is in fact quite handy with the ball in hand. Slotting into second five-eighth he was instrumental in shifting the ball wide and opening up another dimension of the Lugi attack.
All of these factors played an important role in what was undoubtedly the try of the day. From kickoff “Who?” moved it open to “Sticky Fingers”. Never one to pass up the opportunity to score, “Sticky” penetrated deep into the soft defenses of the Karlstad pack, picking up a good 30 metres before reaching his climax. The ball was shifted left through the hands, drawing Karlstad defenders in tight to the breakdown. The ball was shifted right and “Parisse” evaded the scattered defenders to score his second try for the day and put Lugi well in front.
Karlstad mounted a late come back but were unable to reel in the scoreline. At the final whistle, the game finished: Lugi 27, Karlstad 17.
While there were a great number of positives to take from Saturday’s game there remains one glaring frustration: discipline. A good player will concede penalties to test to the referee. A great player will learn from this and adapt their tactics accordingly. “Sticky Fingers” Lednor was time and time again caught with his fist in the jam jar. “Parisse” Cifani was not much better. Now make no mistake, our flankers were crucial in our victory. Any flanker who doesn’t give away penalties is not worth their salt and these guys were everywhere on the park, all day. But between them, we saw a penalty count well into the double figures. This needs our attention. Discipline was the reason we were starved for possession in the first half; we are lucky that the story was different in the second.
Man of the match went to Antonio “Right-hand” Privetera for his brilliant poise, communication, defensive oversight and initiative in attack. It is rare that a player has the perfectly rounded game and it is important that it is acknowledged when it happens. While he may not have been scoring tries or breaking lines, “Right-hand” was absolutely the most reliable and consistent man on the park.
Final score: 27 to 17. Points: Paolo Cifani, 2 tries; Alec Rose, 1 try; Sylvain Touze, 1 try; Andy Mackay, 1 penalty, 2 conversions. Best on: Antonio Privetera.
This result sees Lugi takes the top of the Division One table. But with the loss of several key players and two approaching away games it is crucial that we not become complacent. Training and dedication from us locals is what matters now. It is crucial that we consolidate our position on the table; that we continue to show how hard work during the week brings results at the weekend.
A big thanks and shout-out must go to the exchange students leaving us before the next game: Connor “The Butterfly” Clark, Javier “Lungs” Heredero, “General” Andy Mackay, Tim “No Homo” Mytton and Alec “JP” Rose. You have been fantastic in building the character of the team. We wish you the best of luck and hope to see you all in the future. Cheers lads.