A draw in rugby is a pretty rare occurrence, but it is exactly what happened as UM Wolves and Overseas faced off for the third and final time in the CISK League for this season, in a physical and sometimes nervy battle which ultimately ended in stalemate.

A dropped kick-off gave Overseas their first of many scrums of the match, and they soon proved that this was their key strength in the match.

An early line break was shut down with some good defensive work 10 metres from the Wolves try line: Hamish Boult and Virain Hariramani first bringing the Overseas runner down, and then Philippe Ioffe making a key tackle as Overseas tried to ship the ball out wide.  Strong, low tackles from Gareth Blundell, Agustin Rabini – who was making his Wolves debut – and Hariramani brought any further encroachments towards the Wolves try line to a halt.

A backs play from a scrum did not quite come off, but Wolves slowly gained metres off the ensuing phases in an encounter which was quickly living up to its pre-match billing as a physical affair.

Rabini rose highest to steal an Overseas lineout – the first of three lineout steals in the day – and the ball was shipped wide to Simon Borg, whose progress was curtailed by an unfortunate slip.

The phase play was well-structured and confident though, and Blundell found space out wide before playing the ball to winger Axel Jeffers – also on his Wolves debut – who crashed the ball past the Overseas 10 metre line, with a penalty being won in the breakdown.

It was a scrappy affair thus far with neither side really threatening a breakthrough in the first 15 minutes, but that would soon change.  The Wolves lineout had figured out the defensive tactics of their counterparts, allowing Rabini to rise unopposed and give clean ball to Schmidt.

Two phases followed, as the ball first shot out of fly-half Gabriel Seychell’s hands to Boult and then to the back line in the next phase.  Hooker Jonathan Pace crashed in next, and Overseas came offside at the breakdown.

With the Wolves playing advantage, Overseas seemed to hesitate for a moment, and that was enough for Boult to break one tackle, crash through another two defenders, and step past the full back to score the first try of the match.  Full back Cian Mulkern’s conversion missed by the slimmest of margins, leaving the score at 5-0.

Wolves piled on the pressure, playing a number of phases in the opposition 22 metre area; but the ball was ultimately lost at the breakdown.  The resulting Overseas penalty wasn’t quite kicked into touch though, with Schmidt claiming it and passing out to Boult.

Boult – the birthday boy of the day – proceeded to run 60 metres, breaking two tackles, beating one defender and handing off the full back to score his second try of the day.  Mulkern this time made no mistake from the kicking tee, putting the score at 12-0.

Overseas did not throw in the towel however – quite on the contrary, it became difficult for Wolves to exit from their half as the pressure started to pile on.  A kick from a penalty to touch ended up bobbling into the Wolves try zone, and under pressure Mulkern had no option but to ground the ball, thereby handing Overseas a scrum on the Wolves five metres.

Overseas held the ball, and three phases later just about crashed onto the try line to make the score 12-5, with the score remaining such after the conversion was shanked.

The team in blue and white were in the ascendancy, and managed to work their way into the Wolves danger area again, with their scrummaging prowess proving to be their strength.  A missed Wolves lineout piled further pressure on the defence, and a quick tap penalty five metres from the line saw Overseas barrel over for the equaliser.  This time it was converted, and the score was 12-12 going into half-time.

The second half proved to be on a knife edge: Schmidt’s kicking from the base of the ruck was keeping Overseas under pressure, but the Overseas scrum remained dominant, and their blitz defence was giving little opportunity for the Wolves backline to get the ball in hand.

Ioffe had a good break on the rare occasion that the ball did manage to go to hands, but he was brought down 10 metres from the line.

Overseas worked their way down towards the Wolves end, but a lineout steal from Rabini inside the Wolves 22 metres allowed the men in green to launch a counter attack: Schmidt played the ball out to Nick Xuereb who hit the gain line, and it was then played further wide to Ioffe and then to Jeffers, who left his man for dust and ran 50 metres before being brought down by the last man.

Wolves were growing back into the match though.  A Wolves lineout was claimed comfortably, Schmidt played to Seychell, who hit Boult, who – just a second before hitting contact – lifted the ball for Ioffe who stormed through the gap with a delightful line.  He ran 30 metres, beat the full back, and touched the ball down for the score.  Mulkern obliged with the conversion, making the score 19-12.

Overseas however piled on the pressure and were soon back in the Wolves 22 metres.  The men in green thought they had reclaimed possession when Schmidt made a last-ditch tackle, throwing the Overseas winger into touch.  A contentious decision however led to Overseas being awarded a penalty instead.  They called a scrum, played a few phases using their forwards to try and batter through to score, but ultimately shipped the ball out wide for the try.  It was converted, drawing the score back level to 19-19.

Both sides tried their utmost to get more points on the board.  Wolves were down to 14 men for the final ten minutes of the match after Aitor Santos Juanes was ultimately the man to cop a yellow card for the team’s repeated scrum infringements.

The last few minutes were characterised largely by set pieces, as neither side seemed able to break through each other.

The final play in fact turned out to be an Overseas scrum – their 18th of the day, but it was turned over after some good scrummaging by replacement prop Matteo Alessandro at tighthead.  The ball was kicked into touch, and the match ended in a draw.

STARTING 15: Kurt Sciberras, Jonathan Pace, Aitor Santos Juanes, Kurt Aquilina, Agustin Rabini, Gareth Blundell, Nick Xuereb, Hamish Boult, Cody Schmidt, Gabriel Seychell, Axel Jeffers, Virain Hariramani, Philippe Ioffe, Simon Borg, Cian Mulkern

SUBS USED: Michael Galea, Matteo Alessandro, Daniel Ghirlando

SUBS NOT USED: Leonard Schembri, Braden Refalo, Tyrese Hayman, Damian Mifsud

Wolves Admin

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