On Saturday, Kecskemet Rugby Club hosted a moment in Rugby League history when the Magyar Bulls, Hungary’s national rugby league team, played the Czech Republic for the CEE Bowl – the first time Hungary has competed in Rugby League on the international stage. The match was an opportunity to showcase the hard work that those selected to represent Hungary had put in since the end of the Union season and with only 2 players in the match day 17 having played a competitive League match before, it was due to be a challenge.
Pre-game preparation had not been ideal with key members of the squad missing due a number of varying commitments including filming Asterix and Obelix, a Guinness Rugby World cup commercial, the closure of the Budapest Exiles training pitch and torrential rain but the squad were in good spirits and confident of giving a good account of themselves. The commitment to the cause had been shown by the arrival of Luca Tramontin who had flown in from Italy, keen to take up the chance of playing for Hungary.
However, despite a major downpour on the Saturday morning, the pitch was in great shape, the anthems were played and the spectators treated to a great game of rugby league, prompting much discussion about the rules and regulations of this new code. During several passages of intense tackling, seasoned rugby fans were heard to comment that it certainly looked a lot more brutal than rugby union, with one girlfriend unable to look each time her boyfriend took contact with 3 players on top of him.
Habóczki Zsolt, the newly appointed skipper won the toss and elected to ask the visitors to kick off to give the Bulls the first chance to make some impact with the ball. The game was played in great spirit from the first minute and the Czech team were able to exploit some tactical naivety from the hosts to spring out to a 10-0 lead after about 15 mins as the result of some poor defending round the ruck and players making simple mistakes that led to sets not being completed. Knock ons and kicking on the 1st tackle were all part of the first 20 mins play but the Bulls were learning on the job and after things had settled down after a frenetic first 20 mins, the team started to play some good and fluent rugby.
|Scott Torrance scores Hungary's first ever|
rugby league points
In response to a great solo effort by Jan Buben, the Czech full back which saw him beat 5 tacklers in a 70m run to the line and take the visitors to 14-0, the Bulls responded brilliantly with a well worked try of their own – a quick play the ball after a great drive from Bihari Matyas saw scrum half Fustos Peter scoot from dummy half before offloading in the tackle to find 2nd row Andre Brand who drew the 3 man cover defence to release winger Scott Torrance down the wing for an easy 10m run in – first Hungarian international rugby league points scored within the first 30 mins of the match, which he also converted.
|Father and son combined to score the 2nd -|
with a little help from Federico
Turning round at 14-6 at half time, the Bulls sensed that they were in with a chance but an early score from Victor Leeuw, the Czech scrum half extended the lead before a penalty for the Bulls allowed Bihari Matyas to rampage forward. From the resulting pick and go by Federico Sciotti, a gap opened up which allowed Bihari Lajos to run on to the winger’s pass and score the Bulls 2nd try – started by his son – a great team and family effort.
|Capt Haboczki leading from the front|
As the defence tired in the heat, both teams started to exploit gaps and whilst the Czechs were able to score 2 more simple tries as a result of missed tackles and opportunities not being finished off by the Bulls, the game was far from over. The Bulls players started to enjoy the extra space that comes with having 4 less players on the pitch with Cedric Gaidet, Geza Goletz, Laszlo Harangozó and Andre Brand all enjoying very powerful, direct runs in broken play.
In defence, Joel Jimenez, Zubornynak Gergo, Phil Angel and Szalontani Imre were making some wonderful tackles as the scramble defence came under pressure to stem the play from the vastly more experienced Czech team and held out at 32-12 until, with about 10 mins to play Leeuw was able to break the tiring defensive line and complete his hat trick with a 95m run and swallow dive under the posts.
|Phil Angel, scorer of the 3rd try|
However, the Bulls came back fighting and after some more great approach work from the pack, led by 18 year old Bihari Matyas, the replacement hooker, Phil Angel was able to go in from close range to take the score to 38-16 at the final whistle.
After the final whistle, Coach and stand-off of the Magyar Bulls, Adam Nunn, was full of praise for his players saying:
|Bihari Matyas - only 18 and a real star|
of the future - a rampaging Bull of a player
“We didn’t know what to expect on the pitch today and before the game, I told the guys that the result wasn’t important – what was important was to go out and perform in such a way as not to disgrace ourselves. The performance that they put in on the park today was really, really first class – we made some characteristic errors for those people who are just learning the game but we learnt quickly and showed the Czechs that we weren’t here to make up the numbers.
I am really proud of the team, the commitment that they showed all the way through to the final whistle and I think with a little more practice we will give the guys from the Czech Republic a real run for their money in the future. In the meantime, I think we will have a chance to take our game to the next level against the Belgrade selection next weekend and now we know the rules a little better, we will put less pressure on ourselves as we won’t be making so many silly mistakes that let the opposition get away from us.”
|Petr Sedina receives the CEE Bowl trophy from |
opposite number Haboczki Zsolt
After the game, a short presentation saw the Czechs receive the CEE Bowl trophy as well as a plaque to commerate the historic occasion, before the awarding of individual man of the match awards as voted for by the opposition coaches
Hungary – Bihari Matyas and Joel Jimenez
Czech Republic – Jan Buben
Our thanks to KARC for their hospitality, especially Christian and Pal for all their help with the organisation, Luca and Daniela from Ovalbin for filming the game, Dove for Men for sponsoring the team and all of those who came to watch a small piece of sporting history being made
|Friends after a hard fought match|
|The Magyar Bulls - here to stay|