Thessaloniki Lions VS Cretan Gunners RFC
Thessaloniki Lions VS Cretan Gunners RFC
Cretan Gunners RFC
Four weeks after their first excursion as a Rugby Club Chania Cretan Gunners assembled at Chania Airport on Friday 17th March to begin their second excursion this time to Thessaloniki Lions in Thessaloniki.
After a successful flight with Ryanair the cry of Bravo Giannis was shouted aloud by the players following a successful landing. A slight delay whilst waiting for Manolis Daskalakis to arrive from Athens and then the group of 29 set off by bus for the centre of Thessaloniki and their accommodation for the weekend at Hostel Arabas. Accommodation check in done and the then very hungry Gunners set off to find food. A number of Giro’s followed by cakes and then coffee at a sea front bar found the group replete. A walk to the White Tower followed where the last member of the group Phil Gilgan joined up. As evening drew in Gunners made their way to Rehab Bar in the city to watch some Super 14 rugby on the TV and to relax with a beer or two before heading back to the hostel for the night.
The group reassembled in the morning after breakfast in town to catch the bus to the ground where the match was to be played. Arriving in good time the players were able to familiarise themselves with the pitch and their surroundings before changing and starting their warm up for the game. This over, a return to the changing rooms to don playing shirts and a few final words from Coach Phil Elcock and Captain Spiros Terezakis and it was out to play after a quick team photograph.
Gunners received the kick off and made early ground only for the ball to be turned over and for the next ten minutes Lions took charge of open play with Gunners taking the scrums. Gunners errors in not releasing the ball quickly enough often gave hard won possession to the Lions. Following a knee to the head Prop Zoulakis was withdrawn and replaced by Giannis Sfinorilakis. Gunners continued to dominate in the scrum showing the benefits of their new scrum machine and the addition of Antonis Siniorakis to the second row. Despite their best attempts’ Lions were struggling to get out of their own half such was the organisation of the Gunners defence again benefitting from the practice in training and their dominance in the scrum. The Back Row of Georgi Maxatadze, Theoxaris Katsikiotis, Spiros Terezakis and second rower Kostas Manolikakis were responsible for many hard tackles and some great forward runs always keeping Gunners moving forward. They were well supported by Hooker Taziarxis Tragoustis, Props Giannis Sfinorilakis and Aris Xidis and debutant man mountain Antonis Siniorakis. Not to be outdone the Backs of Manos Livadiotakis , Paris Maltezos, Marios Giousef, Themis Alexandris, Dimitris Katsamparis and Iosif Koidis showed they were not to be outdone with some excellent tackling and support play. After 20 minutes of play and Lions looking the most likely to score a series of strong drives took Gunners to their first ever score with Terezakis a founder of the club going over to score the try. Gunners were now 5-0 up after missing the conversion. Shortly after this a further change and reorganisation to the forwards was made with Angelos Kotsifakis taking the place of Siniorakis From the restart play went backwards and forwards with some excellent tackling and driving runs from both sides and Alex Rassoulis at scrum half making a nuisance of himself in disrupting Lions hard won ball. Lions after some good running and support play went over for a deserved try which went unconverted. Gunner’s Katsampanis was unlucky not to score from an excellent run straight down the left wing only to step on the sideline into touch. Just before the end of the half a pulled hamstring meant an early change at Fullback with Constantinos Lagiakos taking the place of Koidis. With both teams winning their own lineouts it was only the scrums where Gunners were dominating. Half time and at last a break from the heat and the firm pitch and a chance for a brief rest and to take on board much needed water. Half time score Lions 5 Gunners 5.
With words of encouragement from the coach and some changes made, Manolis Daskalakis taking the place of Giousef at 13 and Remi Delme for Katsamparis on the wing Gunners took to the field to start the second half. A change of referee also took place with Gunners Phil Gilgan taking over from the Lions Referee and Coach.
The game started in much the same way with lineouts being equally shared, Gunners dominating the scrums and open play being even. The half time player changes did not stop Gunners momentum with Daskalakis and Delme making excellent tackles and forward runs at key times. Slowly the assertiveness of Gunners forwards, an excellent defensive line and further good support play and Gunners started to get the upper hand. Pressure told following a lineout a catch and drive move and Tragoustis went over to score the second try this was unconverted. Alexandris made two excellent breaks down his wing and was unlucky not to get away into open space. With twenty minutes to go Zoulakis returned replacing Xidis in the front row and soon after had a try disallowed following some good forward ruck play. After only a short time there followed another try this time from Sfinarolakis. After more good ruck ball Sfinorolakis found a space and drove and this was converted by Maltezos. In reply a strong break from Lions was stopped only metres out from Gunners try line when a forced Lions error from excellent Gunners chasing and cover tackling was cleared with a strong kick to the half way line by Maltezos. The following Lions lineout was won by Manolikakis and Gunners got the momentum back. finally with only two minutes to go came the try of the match. A Lions scrum following a Gunners knock-on on the half way line was totally disrupted by the strength of the Gunners drive and with the Lions scrum half being harassed yet again by Rassoulis into making handling errors Rassoulis chased down the loose ball to make the break over the half way line. With three players rapidly closing him down Rassoulis ran inside and then outside to pass the ball to a sprinting Maltezos who outpaced the Lions backs for an easy score and another five points and then succeeded in converting his own try. Two minutes later the final whistle and Gunners had won at only their second attempt and against a club established in 2008 that has been training and playing regular matches and tournaments.
Following the game a very pleased Coach Phil Elcock said ‘This was a performance I will always remember. It was good to see the players having taken on and applied what we have been doing in training and the improvement from our first match has been huge. But there are still things to improve on and there is much more work still to be done. This was a performance that all of the players can and should quite rightly be very proud of and I am sure it is one that they too will never forget.’
Final Score: Lions 5 vs Gunners 24
Try Scorers: Terezakis, Tragoustis, Sfinarolakis, Maltezos
Conversions: Maltezos 2
Following the match Alex Rassoulis was awarded with The Gunners Man of the Match Hat following his outstanding performance at Scrum Half (Number 9).