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 patriarch, Richard York, 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“.
Hradec Kralove coach, Libor Hanzlíček , perhaps best summed up the overall mood of the day by stating that, despite his team’s loss in the quarter finals, he was proud of how far they had come in such a short time, having pulled together a group of complete rookie rugby players for indoor training sessions near the local univerity during the winter. “All clubs did great today, and this was a perfect start to what will be a great Czech rugby league season“.
The 2012 CZRLA 2 division domestic season proper, kicks-off after the Easter long weekend.
CZRLA pre-season 9s (2 x 9 minute 1/2s): 31.3.12
SK Spartak Slatinany o.s., Smetanovo nábrezi 556, 538 21 Slatinany
Pool A: Chrudim, Hradec Kralove, Mikulov
Pool B: Beroun, Havlíčkův Brod, Pardubice
Pool C: Prague, Usti nad Labem, Vrchlabi
Round 1 Matches:
11.00: Chrudim 4 v 14 Hradec Kralove
11.20: Havlíčkův Brod 0 v 14 Pardubice
11.40: Usti nad Labem 8 v 12 Vrchlabi
12.00: Chrudim 4 v 0 Mikulov
12.20: Beroun 24 v 4 Havlíčkův Brod
12.40: Prague 18 v 8 Usti nad Labem
13.00: Hradec Kralove 16 v 8 Mikulov
13.20: Beroun 32 v 0 Pardubice
13.40: Prague 12 v 0 Vrchlabi
Round 2 Matches:
14.00: QF 1 – HK (1st Pool A) 4 v 6 HB (3rd Pool B)
14.20: QF 2 – Beroun (1st Pool B) 16 v 0 UnL (3rd Pool C)
14.40: QF 3 – Prague (1st Pool C) 14 v 10 Mikulov (2nd Pool A)
15.00: QF 4 – Vrchlabi (2nd Pool B) 8 v 14 Pardubice (2nd Pool C)
Round 3 Matches:
15.30: SF 1 – HB (Winner QF 1) 6 v 8 Beroun (Winner QF 2)
15.50: SF 2 – Prague (Winner QF 3) 4 v 0 Pardubice (Winner QF 4)
16.30: Final: Beroun (Winner SF 1) 32 v 0 Prague (Winner SF 2)
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