Please don´t regard this as an official report of the tournament which I have provided in the past. More general impressions and personal observations. From the Exiles point of view it was an almost total triumph with victories in the Ladies Cup and the Men´s Cup and Shield tournaments. But none of these were easy, as will be seen.
To give the Ladies pride of place, they showed themselves to be the best organised team throughout. Slick interpassing and offloading were too much for the opposition, including arch-rivals of late, Vänersborg. Their team selections raised a few eyebrows until it turned out that they had drawn lots before each game to see who would play and where. Carina propping was a sight to be seen, although she still had enough energy to run away for a number of tries. Exiles kept a very close eye on Minoanna from Vänersborg and she was restricted to one try in the two encounters, the other coming from fellow international Victoria Pettersson. Exiles won 22 – 7 on Day One and in a hard-fought final, 7 – 5 at half-time, they added two more in the second half to make it 19 – 5. Carina outstanding but very much a team effort. A special word for Jennifer Sundquist who played for Exiles as well as running the tournament. As mentioned, in the tackle, Exiles unloaded very skilfully in a way I found sadly lacking in the Swedish team in the European Trophy tournament this Summer. Time for the Exiles coaches, Anders and Adam, at national level?
The top Men´s teams were only four but all six round-robin games on Day One were tough ones. In the past, top seeds sailed through the first day with easy wins, but here it required five tough games to win the tournament and no team was unbeaten. Exiles fielded their best team of the season with most of their sevens players available and finally ran out worthy winners. They beat the Lithuanians in a much closer game than the score suggested, but came a cropper in the last play of the game against the English select, Akuma Beavers. Hammarby were also competitive on Day One, narrowly beating the Lithuanians before succumbing to Exiles. And then, to round off a day of ups and downs, the Lithuanians, Vairas, thumped the Beavers.
Day Two meant a semi repeat of that game with Exiles again facing Hammarby.
Vairas dominated the first semi against the Beavers. They were parked on the Beaver´s line for long periods and only heroic defence kept them out. With a mnute to go the Beavers from their own line kicked the ball upfield and won the chase to make it 5 – 0. A further try against a demoralised Vairas made it 12 – 0 and a very hard-fought win.
Then a minor scandal. A red-carded Hammarby player was excluded from the semi and Hammarby refused to play unless he was reinstated. This was classed as a walkover, but in the interests of fairness to the other finalists Exiles played a friendly against them which they won. Hammarby then packed their bags and left without giving Vairas a chance to play for third place. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Hammarby, there was not much evidence of this on Sunday, spoiling a good performance on Day One.
On to the final, mainly played in one of the bursts of torrential rain. It was clear that the Beavers didn´t have much left and they never looked like scoring. Exiles may have scored more with drier weather, but an interception sealed a comfortable 21 – 0 victory.
Exiles fielded also a strong second team in the Shield tournament. Main opposition came from the newly formed Swedish U20 team, including three young Exiles, but the Twos saw them off with a couple of tries to spare in both meetings. Our heavies from Georgia provided a reality check for the youngsters.
Meanwhile the eight touch-teams had been battling away for two days on the adjacent astroturf. This is a much faster and more entertaining game than most people imagine and the better teams showed a high level of skill and stamina. Finally it was the Swedish-based Down Under team, perhaps the home of touch rugby, who triumphed over a strong team from Hamburg. We´ll be inviting Touch back again next year and it´s perhaps time for the Rugby Union to look for some affiliation with this rapidly growing sport. Incidentally, the touch team Brand New Heavies, fielded three of Sweden´s and Exiles´ best ever players, Jane Hodson, Stina Leijonhuvud and Frida Ryberg. But alack and alas, the years go by and they came 6th.
I´ll leave it to others to thank all involved but a special word for Jennifer who did a fine job and along with Harriet, Nigel and Hunter Jr combined to keep us up to date administratively and electronically. Roll on 2019!