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Mighty Moufflons 'never wilted'.

By Alexander McCowan

THE Cyprus national rugby team have extended their world record winning streak to 22 games following a 46-15 victory over Bulgaria in Sofia to win Division 2C of the European Nations Cup over the weekend.

As the wins pile up, the Moufflons' canny old Welsh coach, Paul Shanks, is becoming more cautious. Before Saturday's game against Bulgaria -- a side they beat 95-4 in their previous encounter -- Shanks warned against over-confiedence saying things like: "We mustn't let scores go to our heads and we can't be complacent."

Over the last five years, as they have ploughed their way through the European Leagues, the Moufflons have hammered their opponents out of sight.

The game in Sofia was marked by the teams observing a one-minute silence in memory of the late Keith Elliott, a stalwart of the game on the island.

The match was played in good conditions and in good spirit, with little for the Ukrainian referee to worry about.

The Moufflons opened the scoring after three minutes when Marco Mladennovic, playing at the back of the pack at No.8, touched down from a beautifully controlled lineout steal leaving Alex Zavallis to convert, who seven minutes later knocked over a penalty as the visitors opened up an early 10-0 advantage.

Zavallis, never one to be left behind when there are points to be scored, popped over the Bulgar line for a try, to be followed by Mike Asprou dropping the ball into the opposition corner where the Moufflons' pack mauled the ball over the line for big Steve Eleftheriou to touch down, taking the score to 20-0.

One of the highlights of the game occurred when Eleftheriou made a long, mazy run from his own 10-metre line -- an uncommon sight for a prop forward -- before passing to the veteran scrum-half, Burhan Torgut, who slipped it to Zavallis who touched down and converted.

This was followed late in the half by full-back Loizia who also converted, taking the score to 39-0.

The Bulgarians' response was a penalty kicked in the last minute of the first half by Debrenliev.

The second half witnessed a revival in the opposition fortunes when they added to the score with a well-deserved try by Gumashan converted by Nicolou: Bulgaria 10 -- Cyprus 39.

However, the alert Loisia picked up on a loose ball and powered over the line for a Moufflons try that he converted taking the score to 46-10 which stood until two minutes before the final whistle when the Cypriots relaxed and the Bulgarians crossed the try-line for an unconverted score.

Cyprus team manager Rick Wadmore described the win as an "excellent result.

"We played to our strengths and never wilted," he said. "The number of tries speaks for our fitness even though it has been a long season. Just one more match to go now, then we can take it easy for a couple of weeks."

A smiling Shanks added: "I wasn't really worried. I know the strength of the team but I won t have them getting complacent. We now have to face Hungary, the strongest of our opposition, and we will take them seriously."

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Geographic Code:4EXBU
Date:Apr 28, 2014
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