Our Prague Vikings rugby league team had another great victory last Sunday at Pardubice, this time winning 48-44 over the 2011 premiers Pardubice Jets in a tight game which was a thriller down to the last play! The two teams exchanged tries in the first 10 minutes before touchdowns to Pavel Vrana, Fischer, Sapar and Jamie Sherrington put the Vikings out to a 26-12 margin by half-time. The Prague team featured Czech players from their Associated Clubs Usti Nad Labem and Mikulov and these players really stood up when it counted, none more than Czech national captain Petr Sedina in a Man of the Match performance featuring a four try haul. Sedina’s first three tries scored in the second half were the only bright spot for the Vikings as poor options and ball security saw the Jets dominate possession and field position for most of the half. Club stalwart, Aussie Andy Mulhall, played a major role in the comeback with two tries along with talisman Vic Leeuw who scored three second half tries of his own to help the Jets finally re-take the lead with only one minute to play. But the Vikings still had a final effort in them and, riding the back of an opportune penalty, passed the ball to Petr Sedina who managed to get over the line just as the final whistle sounded, giving the Vikings a last gasp four point victory in front of the crowd of almost 100 engaged onlookers! For full match statistics see: http://rugbyleague.cz/utkani/jets-pardubice-v-vikings-praha/2012-06-23/111132.
The 2012 Czech Rugby League season kicked off with an historic pre-season 9s tournament involving all 9 of the clubs – Lokomotiva Beroun, Pardubice Jets, Vrchlabi Mad Squirrels, Prague Vikings, Chrudim Angels, Hradec Kralove Broncos, Ústí nad Labem Dragons, Orli Havlíčkův Brod & Mikulov Roosters – at Slatiňany Stadium. Lokomotiva Beroun, the oldest established rugby league club in the Czech Republic, were the eventual champions, going through 5 matches undefeated and racking up plenty of exciting tries along the way. Former Czech national team captain, Jan Sluka, led from the front in his comeback to rugby league, Honza Buben orchestrated the team’s attack and Dalibor Šmotek comfortably topped the days try scoring feats with several weaving, length of the field efforts. Current Czech national team captain, Petr Šedina, who played with Prague in the final, while also coaching Mikulov Roosters to their rugby league debut, was circumspect about the day: “It was great to see so many Czech rugby league teams all coming together, and it is a good indication of where we are going with our development. The challenge now, is not just to maintain the momentum of booming player participation, but to improve the skills, fitness and game knowledge of the players.“ For 3 clubs – Chrudim, Havlíčkův Brod & Mikulov - the pre-season 9s was their 1st taste of ‘serious‘ rugby league after only ever having played friendly matches previously with other domestic Czech teams, while for 2 - Hradec Kralove & Ústí nad Labem – it was their 1st experience of a full-contact rugby league competition in any form. The indications were that all clubs are on will approach the CZRLA season proper with confidence as each impressed, albeit for different reasons. Usti, in particular, exuded physicality with their approach to games, Havlíčkův Brod gave Beroun their toughest match of the day with self-assured ball movement and went down only 8-6 in their semi-final, while Hradec, suprising everyone except perhaps themselves, advanced through the preliminary rounds undefeated & scored some scintillating tries along the way, before being edged out 6-4 by Havlíčkův in the quarter-final. In the other semi the current Czech Minor and Major Premiers, Pardubice were defeated by Prague, the latter looking like 2012 will be a season of vast improvement for them after playing 3 full seasons of CZRLA domestic matches without ever having registered a win. In their debut in the kit donated to them by the Leeds Rhinos, with whom they have entered into a strategic partnership, the Vikings looked impressive and had they not lost key player, Oliver Pierce, to injury appeared well and truly capable of causing an upset against the much more experienced Beroun in the day’s final. For club captain, Rhys Latham, the 9s performance was an encouraging indication of the season ahead: “considering we have only managed a few outdoor contact sessions in the leadup to this tourney we have done really well to make the final. We will improve enormously from this point, and the enthusiasm from all the players indicates we have a successful year ahead of us“.