The Croatian rugby 7s team have reached the final of a European tournament for first time in its history.
Led by coach Anthony Poša, the Croatian 7s team put together a string of impressive victories to reach the final of Rugby Europe’s Trophy Series tournament which took place at Lučko stadium in Zagreb over the weekend.
In the final Croatia were defeated by a strong Ukraine side, but it did not undermine the success the team achieved over the two days.
“Super proud of my team, to come 2nd in a European Trophy tournament and play the way we did to reach the final is outstanding. To put it in perspective we came 11th in this tournament last year,” coach Anthony Poša says, adding.
“It is the first time Croatia has been in a Rugby 7s final since this format started. So to hear our national anthem played at a final of a Trophy tournament was a tremendous moment for the players and their families and supporters. Rugby in Croatia is not a professional sport so the sacrifices these players make means so much more. On top of this the whole squad were Croatian born and bred so we did it without the help of our more experienced overseas diaspora players.”
Poša says that the most pleasing thing for any coach is to see progress, and his team more than did that.
“We had some issues leading into the final – our captain Niko Pavlovic was cited in the semi final and so missed the final – but there is no excuses from us, Ukraine we’re the better team and we congratulate them. I’m confident our boys learnt even more though from the experience.”
On the way to the final, Croatia beat Bulgaria (25-19), Switzerland (28-7) and Sweden (24-17) in group play, before beating Poland (31-12) in the quarterfinals and an heroic semi-final win over Hungary.
“The semi final where we were 21-0 down at halftime against Hungary and came back to win 26-21 will live long in the memory of those that saw it. It takes a special kind of heart and courage to do that!,” Poša concluded.
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The second and final leg of the Trophy Series will take place in Budapest on 8-9 July.