Following the ladies successfully SM qualification campaign in which a third place finish in the Southern group qualified them for group B of the SM finals, our girls were in Norrköping last weekend to compete for the top spots in Swedish 7s rugby.
Our group pitted us against local rivals Malmö as well as Vänersborg from the West and Stockholm Exiles from the northern group, a tough group with the team having a relatively mixed history in terms of past results against each of their opponents. For this group of Lugi Ladies, it was their first SM as a unit and was always seen as a building block towards future competitions.
The team was as follows (from top left);
Ross Watson (coach), Elizabeth Sonnenholzner, Agnes Lindgren, Sara Kaminski, Linnéa Roslund, Cecile Kaminski.
Sandra Olofsson, Meliha Mehmeti, Malin Andersson, Martina Vivlund, Cornelia Norén.
The Saturday opened with the girls taking on eventual finalists Vänersborg in the blazing heat of midday, in what was considered to be one of our winnable matches. Unfortunately, it appeared that nerves and the opposition got the better of the girls as any semblance of the gameplay appeared to be thrown out of the window from the kickoff and the ensuing battles at the breakdown were inevitably won by the more physical Vänersborg team. Lugi hung tough despite the early scores by the opposition, but with a lack of execution in attack or pressure in defence Vänersborg eventually ran out as comfortable winners 20-5.
Following the disappointment of the first game, the team took on group favourites Stockholm Exiles who, despite having numerous girls away on national duty, were still very strong, physical outfit. Despite the relatively short rest between the games, our girls came out and put in a much stronger performance, creating some good opportunities to take command of the game in the first half. Despite these chances it was Exiles who took a 10-0 lead following Lugi mistakes at the lineout and defensively from a penalty. The girls would finish the first half strongly after a sustained period of pressure and nifty handling work saw Agnes go over to leave the half time score at 10-5.
However, the second half saw the Exiles step it up a gear, controlling the ball well and never letting our girls find the rhythm they had built at the end of the first half, putting a further three trys past us to take the final score to 25-5.
With the prospects of making the cup semi-finals very slim, the girls went into the Saturday’s final game against Malmö with nothing to lose, and motivated by a chance to get one over on our rivals who had beaten Vänersborg 12-7 earlier in the day.
The game our ladies produced was light years apart from what they had displayed earlier in the day, executing the game plan well and working so hard that we blew the opposition off the pitch. For a team that we’ve had back and forth battles against all year, to beat them so comfortably really proved to the team what was possible if they executed what had been worked on in training. First half trys came from Meliha, Martina and Sandra, with Meliha crossing over for one more in the second half. Whilst Malmö scored one on the very last play of the game, it was merely a small blip on the dominance of the Lugi performance for all 14 minutes.
With a win in the last game, the girls finished third in the group behind surprise group winners Vänersborg and Exiles in second, setting us up for a plate semi-final against the bottom of group A, Kalmar.
The fortune of coming third on the Saturday, meant a slightly later kick off for our ladies against a Kalmar team that had struggled with numbers on the Saturday, but had been bolstered by some late reinforcements come Sunday morning.
The big positive for our girls was that they started exactly how they had finished the previous day, controlling play for large periods of the first half with plenty of defensive and attacking pressure. First half trys came from Martina spotting a game following a lineout and and a opportunist Meliha displaying her footballing skills following some Kalmar handling errors.
The second half started much like the first, with an early try coming from Martina following a quickly taken penalty. From there however, Lugi’s luck began to turn. Firstly an error on our kick off lead to Kalmar securing a quick score and pulling the game back to 19-7 before tragically, a tackle ended Meliha’s weekend in a broken leg mere minutes later. This was naturally a low moment of the weekend as the team lost one of the girls that had really stepped up and shined, something that became apparent when she picked up both the players’ player and coaches’ player award. Fortunately Meliha is ok and should heal quickly.
The rest of the game became a very nervy affair for the ladies as Kalmar really started to gain some self-belief and began to control the second half’s proceedings. When they pulled the score back to 19-12 with around minute left on the clock, the game looked like it had a chance to going to extra time with the way Kalmar had been playing, fortunately however, the refs whistle drew an end to proceedings before the girls in blue could add any more scores.
With the win, the ladies earned themselves a long rest and a spot in the plate semi-final against the old foe Malmö.
Note: No footage of the final game due to our cameraman helping Meliha at the hospital.
The last game our the 7s year would see us having a chance of silverware in the plate final against Malmö, a team that we had managed to handle easily the day before, but one that everyone knew would come out firing after the smarting they had received in our group match.
The message to the team before they ran out was to dig deep and push themselves past wall they would eventually hit after four intense games of 7s. On this front they delivered with aplomb. Once again, the execution of the game plan and the high work rate proved far too much for Malmö, with our defensive pressure forcing them into mistakes and our width in attacking making them work very hard to defend us. First half trys were scores by Elizabeth and Martina put us into the driving seat, and once the team had established themselves, they never looked like relenting having taken the lesson from our previous game against Kalmar.
Whilst Malmö fought hard, they were unable to constantly threaten with the ball, only scoring once with a few minutes to go, whilst Lugi managed to go over twice more in the second through Sandra and Martina. Final score Lugi 24 – 5 Malmö and a plate coming home to Lund!