“What happens on tour stays on tour”, dear Lugi friends, so nothing will be told in this report about the Lions’ performance outside the pitch in Saarlandstraße 71: it’s enough to mention that the battle has been preceded by a long night reconnaissance mission and our warriors were somewhat drowsy when they entered the arena good 15 minutes before kick-off (poor David “SpicySnus” Lönsjö had to skip his stretching). Beautiful scenery for a glorious day: almost 20°C, cloudless sky and a lovely facility right on the edge of Hamburg city park. According to the St.Pauli homepage the Lions were to face a mixture of players from the local first and third team. Lugi responded with the experienced back line displayed in the last games of our 2011 campaign, Seba Andersson “Highlander” returning at 9 and a very experimental scrum that took advantage of the heavy physicality of flankers Will Byckford, Ben Mwenda Singleton and Jordan “7seconds” Hayes.
St.Pauli started the game at high pace while our Lions were still trying to remember the basics of tackling technique and less than 3 minutes after kick-off the white-n-brown center cut the swedish defense to score under the goal posts and bring the local side on 7-0: with the whole game still ahead this was the cold shower that woke up the Lions. The forwards felt that our opponent was within our reach and led the counter-attack controlling the scrums and retaining ball possession at line-outs: a bunch of minutes after the locals scored our hard work paid back and Lugi’s captain (the humble writer) was crossing the try line to reduce the gap to 7-5 and reopen the game.
A forward pack providing good balls and dry weather: what more can a back line ask for? Our runners become in fact even too enthusiastic: an unprecedented number of dropped balls was the consequence of our backs rushing to score from first phase and condemned the pack to some 15+ scrums in the first half only. The first fraction was indeed a forwards game that kept the fatties challenging each other at set-pieces. Line-outs were kept simple (as simple as calling first jumper “Joseph” and second “Gijs/Anna”) but worked smoothly in attack despite an aggressive defense from St.Pauli. The german line-outs were a much better oiled mechanism and we never got close to steal a ball in defense. With both packs being a patchwork of players, the scrums become a challenge between first rowers: Tadas “bulldozer” Valutis at tight consistently held his ground while Dion “the Wall” Granström was pushing back his direct opponent with such an intensity that he finally lost a patch of skin from his neck. The first half ended with two exhausted packs and no more point on the scoreboard: 7-5.
During the break we cooled our minds and recalled the precepts of master Jim “Zen” White: “structure and composure, keep it simple”. The Lions started the second half with a different attitude and went back to what we had practiced on the gravel of Linero: we received kick-off, Seba (very solid display for a guy that hasn’t been on the pitch since last summer) shepherded the forwards in playing flat, the gates opened for Viktor “RichieGray” Cordes that run across the pitch from the middle line and brought Lugi on the sunny side of the score board: 7-12 and one entire half ahead to play. St.Pauli’s reacted immediately bringing fresh bodies in the front row and adding weight and experience both in the forwards and in the backs: the second half saw an evident scrum dominance of the germans but we managed anyway to keep our own feed. Short after Viktor’s try, Olof “Grandpa” Carlsson quickly tapped a penalty, fooled the defense with his deceptive slow pace and run from midfield to the try line: 7-19.
The home team was not any keen on giving away a victory on its own ground and stroke back using its fresher and heavier pack: they won a line-out on our 5 m line, formed a maul and drove all the way to Lugi’s last trench: 14-19. With legs getting tired our lack of organization became more evident and under/over-commitment in our rucks was often an issue. Nonetheless Lugi took charge again of keeping the show alive: Joseph “SafetyStair” Le Pluart finally escaped his tacklers and galloped from the middle of the pitch to bring in 5 more points and Viktor added a second try to his booty. Kyle “PinkRabbit” Cahill, in a desperate attempt to make him score few points for Lugi, was given kicking duties and he slotted in two conversions for a round 14-33.
From this point the Lions’ attention shifted from the game to the BBQ waiting for us while St.Pauli was well determined in launching a last assault. Their aggressiveness in defense raised, as Antonio Rage Privitera experienced in first person, and they shown very effective off-load skills that conquered meter after meter of Lugi’s ground. The Lions’ defense around the break-point was heroic: Diego “Fromage” Guenot repeatedly tried to slow the ball carrier throwing his own body under the boots of his opponent while Dion “HoverDam” displayed an unbelievable tackle rate and deserved his Man of the Match award. While St.Pauli kept raising the pressure on us our defensive line completely lost composure out wide and, despite Linus “the bottler” Persson performing his one tackle and Brian “Guinnes” Kennedy trying to mesmerize his opponents, St.Pauli manage to score two more corner tries for the final 24-33. In his debut in the maroon and black jersey Edwin “Muscle” Bywater proved his values both on and off the pitch: welcome!
A good victory for Lugi on the pitch (St.Pauli was going to challenge us again in the evening…but there won’t be any match report about that) that highlighted many areas to work on in the next month. We thank St.Pauli for the warm welcome (including the Swedish flag) and we hope to meet them again at Centrala IP.
Final score: Hamburg FC St. Pauli 24 – Lugi Lions 33
Best on: Dion
Lugi points: Viktor 10 (2t), Olof 9 (1t+2c), Joseph 5 (1t), Paolo 5 (1t), Kyle 4 (2c no try, again)