This wasn’t the outcome that the Budapest Exiles expected, but in the match against their neighbours in the table – Battai Bulldogs – they lost 16:24. The visitors stung the “Pink and Black” with two early tries in a game played behind closed doors at the Budapest Rugby Center in Kincsem Park. The Exiles sit third in the league, but now they have to make up a 6 point gap between them and second placed Battai if they want to make it to the league final that will be played at the end of May.
There were quite a few changes in the Exiles starting line-up as opposed to the team that convincingly came away with a win Fit World Gorillak Szeged in the last fixture of 2020. The changes, which included 50% of the forward pack were caused by key players staying away due to covid and a few departures, but no matter what it is no excuse for the team’s performance in the first 20 minutes, that allowed the Bulldogs to put two tries past the Exiles defense, with former Exile player Atilla Slot getting one conversion. By half time the score was 12:6 to Battai, with captain Joris Auger scoring from two penalties.
“Battai played a great game, keeping it simple and waiting for the right moments to strike out at us” said Antoni Bohdanowicz, Budapest Exiles manager.
“We can say that we didn’t have enough time to prepare, as due to internal safety regulations we missed a few training sessions due to covid-19 cases within the squad, but that wouldn’t do justice to the Bulldogs. They played really well, and took advantage of how we played. We can only review what went wrong and find a way to make amends ahead of the game against Esztergom” said Bohdanowicz.
The second half started in a similar manner to the first, with Battai yet again putting a try against the Exiles. Jeremy Hale, who was standing in as head coach for the game, in absence of Thomas Aponte, tinkered the squad a bit and introduced Hungarians Aron Erdelyi and Oliver Kopasz for front rower Jozef Rojik and second-row Andy Wright. Unfortunately the latter of the “Exile Magyarul” came off almost as quickly as he came on, picking up a yellow card for unprofessional disruption of play. Battai used that to their advantage and extended the lead by another converted try making it 24:6.
At that point the Exiles started to chase the score, and Joris Auger managed to get a try. Soon afterwards, after introducing to the pitch first team debutants – Jamaican Nicholas Lee and Hungarian Jonathan Greskó – Auger managed to get a second try. The pressure was there for the Exiles to even try for a third try, with Lucas Deyts being denied a few meters from the try-line. Battai managed to push danger away and keep the “Pink and Black” away from the danger area.
Despite a few attempts to break the Bulldogs defense the visitors stood firm and the final score was 24:16 to Battai.
“What a shame that we didn’t manage this time to get a result” said Auger after the game. “It’s a real shame, as now we have a very steep climb if we want to stay in the game for the title. On the other hand I must say, win or lose, what a fantastic feeling it is to be back playing rugby after a long winter break. These aren’t easy times, and the team does its best to protect ourselves from Covid, following all safety regulations and procedures introduced by the Hungarian federation that make it possible for us to train and play. We really hope that our games, which are broadcasted on our facebook page give some kind of sense of normality to our fans who have to stay at home. Hopefully by next season we’ll be able to be all together at the stadium” says Auger.
The Exiles currently sit third in the table and are 5 points behind second placed Battai.
The next fixture for the Pink and Black is against leaders and reigning champions – Esztergomi Vitézek. The match will be played at the Budapest Rugby Center, Kincsem Park, on March 20th. Due to Covid-19 restrictions the match will be played behind closed doors, but there will be a chance to follow via a broadcast on the Exiles Facebook page.