Another game behind closed doors, and another defeat. Despite Hungary being in lockdown the premier rugby division continues to play on, and so the Budapest Exiles lost on Saturday the reigning champions Esztergomi Vitézek 13:32. The win for the visitors at Budapest Rugby Centre in Kincsem Park means they strengthened their lead in the championship and have most likely guaranteed their place in the play-offs. The Exiles defeat means that they are now 10 points behind second-placed Battai Bulldogs in the race for a place in the final and from now need to win every single game, and best with bonus points.
Esztergom couldn’t have imagined a better start. After 3 minutes of play, they were ahead by three points after a penalty kick. 8 minutes into the game Esztergom got their first try. The Exiles defence seemed to be opening up, leaving gaps that the visitors could weave through in-and-out. The Pink and Black were on a back foot and soon found themselves trailing 13:0 after another successful breach of the defensive lines. A penalty scored by captain Joris Auger managed to narrow the gap, making it 13:3 to the visitors.
Those points gave some hope to the hosts. The Exiles started catching a rhythm, with some good runs by French backs Will Feunteun, Clement Perrier and Lucas Deyts.
Unfortunately, that was a false dawn, as Esztergom after a successful counter-attack made it 18:3. The gap was getting bigger. Shortly before half time Hungarian number 8, Matyas Szalai managed to put down points making it 18:8 at half time, but nevertheless, the second half wasn’t going to be easy.
“Esztergom played exactly how we predicted they would. We adjusted our tactics to that, but this game showed us why they are champions. They used every opportunity we gave them to score points and this is why they had a convincing lead after the first half” said Exiles forward coach Francois Taillandier.
At the start of the second half, the Exiles were yet again hit by the “curse of the second row substitute”. Frenchman Julien Doussot after just a few minutes on the pitch was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous challenge on his opponent, meaning that the Exiles were to play for 10 minutes with only 14 men. This only meant more points to the visitors.
The host team’s coaches introduced 18-year-old Jonathan Greskó in the 60th minute, and the young winger brought some freshness into the team. After 5 minutes on he managed to put down his first points for the Exiles. This effort just wasn’t enough and the Exiles ended up losing 13:32.
“These defeats really hurt, but at the same time, I’d like to thank the guys who showed up. They put in a massive effort. Due to covid-19, we have had many of our regular Hungarian staying at home protecting families, and others returned to their home countries for lockdown. Add to these injuries we are carrying, and from a squad of 50 that we started out in August we have around half of that. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but just the fact that instead of selection we had a process of who is available made it even harder. The Federation hasn’t suspended the league and having enough players to compete we play on, but it’s getting tougher. Hopefully, by next season it will be safer and we will have a proper team to compete” said Exiles manager Antoni Bohdanowicz.
“At the start of the season we were hoping of making it to the final, but now that ship is sailing away. Only some fabulous performances and wins with bonus points will allow us to still have a chance of achieving that.
Esztergom always was going to be tough, but I really appreciate the effort of those who were available to play to come out there. We are missing many guys, but those who are here have shown passion. I’m proud that despite this loss, we managed to get some points and we have something to build on before next season” said Exiles captain Joris Auger.
Read alsoRugby: Exiles miss chance to move up in the table after losing to Battai 16:24
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