To coincide with the recent Gibraltar Day in Tel Aviv, Gibraltar Rugby headed off to Israel to play a long-awaited return leg of a match first hosted in the Rock in February 2014.
The squad had high hopes of repeating the win at home, but a number of other factors meant this was not the same Israel team, both in terms of players and management. Israel had recently appointed a new coach and had a 29-man squad in preparation for an official match the following week. On the other hand, Gib’s players were facing only their second competitive match of the season and had a number of alterations to the line-up that had faced the UAE.
Israel’s initial kick off was not gathered cleanly and untidy play resulted in an Israeli scrum where a penalty was conceded, duly converted to give the home side a 3rd minute lead of 3-0. The following kick off was successfully disrupted by Gibraltar, who were awarded a 40 metre penalty successfully converted by Chuqui Cruz to level the score in the 5th minute.
Israel started applying pressure from their kick off, and Gibraltar were again penalised in the 9th minute, with a successful kick giving the home side a 6-3 lead. Gibraltar were unable to adapt to the referee’s interpretation of the breakdown law and the scrums in particular. This was to result in a much higher penalty count against Gibraltar than has been the case in previous Internationals.
The Gibraltar scrum was applying continuous pressure to Israel, with Chris Lugnani in particular dominating a succession of opposing props, and it was disappointing that a disrupted scrum saw flanker Mike Milward yellow carded in the 18th minute. Reduced to 14 men, Gibraltar endured wave after wave of Israeli attacks, none of which was able to break the resolute defence.
Once Gibraltar were restored to 15 men, and in the knowledge that they had not conceded any points, they were finally able to secure possession and begin to play. Two separate sets of possesion that went beyond five phases saw Gibraltar stretch the Israeli defence and able to work debutant Jamie Stone over for a try in the 33rd minute. Chuqui Cruz’s conversion gave Gibraltar a 6-10 lead.
Unsurprisingly, Israel again laid siege to the Gibraltar try line, with the same unsuccessful result. A kickable penalty in the last couple of minutes was turned down by Israel, aiming for a 5 metre line out. The kick was badly executed, going dead, and Gibraltar were grateful for the drop out and were able to successfully see out the half.
The second half saw a re-energised Israel concentrating on their strengths, the catch and drive from the lineout, which Gibraltar were unable to deal with. Substitute hooker Luke Payas was controversially yellow carded for collapsing a maul, with the referee also awarding a penalty try for the offence in the 50th minute, giving Israel a 13-10 lead.
Again, Israel were unable to convert their numerical advantage into points, and heroic defence for the 10 minute sin bin saw the scoreboard unchanged. Gibraltar again started to try to get their normal flowing game going, but this was to be a strangely disjointed performance, with a succession of mistakes and wrong decisions combining to negate the efforts made by the Gibraltar XV. This increasing frustration led to an interception by Israel in the 69th minute, giving them a 20-10 lead.
Most of the last 10 minutes saw Gibraltar try to apply pressure, without tangible results. Finally, an aggressive Gibraltar scrum, followed by good support play and a number of phases again resulted in a Jamie Stone try in the 40th minute, again converted by Chuqui Cruz for the final 20-17 score.
Minister Albert Isola was able bring a small delegation from the GibDay events in Tel Aviv to come and watch the game, adding to Gib’s loyal travelling supporters (Bernard Stone and Charlie and Simon Cruz). Support, particularly in away games makes a massive difference and is hugely appreciated by the players.
1. Nick Ramagge
2. Oscar Cruz
3. Chris Lugnani (Captain)
4. Mark Waller
5. Mike Massey
6. James Savignon
7. Mike Milward
8. Xavi Bottino
9. Jack Milton
10. Chuqi Cruz
11. Jonny Reyes
12. Elliot Stone (debut)
13. Matthew Isola
14. Jamie Stone (debut)
15. Harvey Armstrong
16. Luke Payas
17. Will Collin
18. Joey Galloway
19. Matt Jones (debut)
20. Aidan Beazley
21. Tom Lovelace
22. Sam Julian (debut)
Coaches: Dave Barley, Lee Forty, Team Manager – Dan Collin, Physio – Joyce Evans