Its difficult to write a positive match report when then game you have been playing in and watches finishes with a 44-0 whitewash by the opposition, or so it would appear, however, in this instance, this isn’t the case.
Last Sunday, in Kecskemet, the Magyar Bulls RLFC played in their 2nd ever rugby league match – backing up after a hard fought game against the Czech Republic the previous weekend. Despite a week of disjointed preparation because of the entire forward pack being involved in the filming of Gerard Depardieu’s Asterix and its rugby scenes, rain and a potentially flooded pitch and 3 players unavailable from the previous week because of prior commitments and injury, the team was in good heart following the final run through on Margit Sziget on the Friday evening. We might not have a pitch in the city to train on but the opportunity to train overlooking a UNESCO World Heritage site certainly makes up for the inconvenience.
Sunday morning dawned with heavy skies in Budapest but 80kms down the road in Kecskemet, the rugby gods were smiling, the sun was out, the wind was blow drying the pitch and we were set for another warm, humid game.
For the 2nd weekend in a row, Captain Habozcki won the toss and asked the opposition to kick off to us, allowing the guys to get an early touch on the ball and settle some nerves – powerful runs from the starting pack and a more settled half-back – stand off axis, with Nunn and Jimenez reversing positions from the previous week saw some good forward movement and a completed set – better start than the previous week.
However, the Belgrade Selection was soon to prove a very different proposal to the team from the Czech Republic – bigger, stronger, quicker and more experienced, it wasn’t long before their better understanding of the game started to show and the Bulls were struggling to get out of their half with any form of consistency. The visitors were able to shut down the hosts’ options and some very large hits, including a 3 man dump tackle on Geza Goletz started to impact on the confident start the team had made and it wasn’t long before a failure to lift out wide right saw the opposition in at the corner.
As the first half progressed, the game started to fall into a predictable pattern – strong attacking play from both teams with the visitors able to bring their extra experience to bear in terms of both field position and points on the board. Injuries were also starting to take their toll, with Lajos Bihari coming off the interchange bench only to be sent back to the side again after 5 mins with a bllod injury and then a mix up in a 2 man tackle seeing Nunn carried from the field with a sprained ankle – leading to a little bit of disorganisation in the ranks.
Turning round 20 points down, the Bulls put in a stronger start to the 2nd half with some excellent hands releasing Franken, on debut, down the wing before a great cover tackle took him into touch on the 20m line and from the resultant scrum, Jimenez picked up a dead leg and had to come off. Down the less than 100% fit Torrance to come off the bench to try and repeat his try scoring historics of the previous week but without the same success. Through in after 15 mins of the 2nd half the fact that the scrum half, Mehdi Beneniba who had previously been enjoying another great debut was limping and needed to come off, the backline was looking rather unfamiliar with Andre Brand, normally a big ball carrying 2nd row standing in at stand off and Franken moving in from centre to Scrum Half with Matyas Bihari in the centres from loose forward, the wheels were starting to come off the game plan and Belgrade were happily exploiting the mis-matches.
Coming back onto the field, Nunn resumed his service at hooker and Jimenez was able to move back into scrum half which added measure of control to the game for a short while and the axis was able to combine brilliantly with Brand at 6 to free Franken on a great burst through the midfield and to within 2ms of the opposition line before over-excitement at the play led to a knock on and turn over for the Serbs to relieve the pressure on their line.
With 5 mins to play, the referee was forced to call the Captains together to impose a certain degree of discipline on the field as frustrations on both sides were starting to boil over – both teams were starting to tire leading to more handling errors which only served to raise the temperature a little.
Fittingly, on the final whistle, Belgrade were able to cross the whitewash and bring up the forty point margin before their final conversion took them out to 44-0.
Despite the final score, the team can take some real pride from the performance that was put in on Sunday – the back 3 of Zubornyak, Sciotti and Szalontani dealt very well with the kicks coming their way and made some great cover tackles in defence, whilst the new midfield pairing of Harangozo and Franken (little and large) showed their ball carrying abilities and really looked to exploit the chances that came their way. Jimenez and Benaniba added some much needed dynamism to the half back axis whilst the pack performed admirably against a bigger, more experienced and very well drilled unit. Those who came off the bench all played a major part in the team performance, spelling the starting team and filling in, into unfamiliar roles as the injuries too their toll.
After the game, a series of short presentations saw the Man of Match award go to Matyas Bihari for the 2nd game in a row – a real boost of confidence to an 18 year old who surely has a great future in front of him and will be a pillar of Hungarian Rugby League for many years to come.
After 2 games on the bounce, the team have earnt a 2 month rest before the proposed re-match vs. the Czech Republic in Prague at the end of September – an excuse for a mini-tour and a bonding session before the end of the league session and the start of the Hungarian Rugby Union Premiership which will see those who have played for Bulls, demonstrating to the rest of Hungarian rugby how beneficial the odd game of League can be for their skills development, although I suspect some people might forget to let go of the ball in the tackle, but I am sure the game can live with that.
As a side note, the Bulls did win the post match boat race for the 2nd week in a row, proving that not all the training the team have put in over the summer has been for nothing.
After what has been, despite results, a great debut season for the team, the Bulls have proven that there is an appetite for RL in Hungary and the team has a great future with some players certainly looking to be fixtures for many years to come – watch this space, it might be a little too early for the World Cup in 2013, but 2017 might be a goal – if the RFL open it up to emerging nations as well, we wait to see.
Photos from the match vs. Belgrade