The first London-based touring rugby side to visit Israel in nearly ten years saw their series with the Israeli women’s national side end in a draw.
Taking place at the picturesque Park Hayarkon, the London Pumas side were engaged in a titanic battle against their hosts – the Israel National Rugby Team / Israel Development XV over two enthralling days of action.
The event, which was organised by Project Israel http//www.projectisrael.co.uk and the Israel Rugby Union, ended in a 2-2 series draw, comprising of three games of Rugby 7’s and one game of 15’s. Rugby 7’s is the global code of rugby union practised mainly by the Israel team, while 15’s is the traditional version played primarily by the London Pumas, an invitation team drawn from London & UK clubs.
The Israelis, who were initially taken aback by the heavy tackling of the London team, showed skill and speed in winning the first two 7’s games by the narrow margin of a single try in each game, the speedy Israel winger Naama Isenburg scoring one of the tries, assisted by Melanie Kraus, who converted to rugby only a year ago and now lives in Israel.
The Pumas though, by now thoroughly acclimatised, bounced right back in the third 7’s game and overpowered Israel 19-5. Richmond prop Laura Kapo scored another fine try to take her tally to three in three games. Classy Llanelli Puma Rebecca de Filippo converted two out of the three tries.
In the 15’s game played the next day in front of a large crowd, the Pumas ran out convincing winners against Israel Development XV, by 57-7. Hampstead’s Alexis Bloom touched down for the Pumas, while winger Anja Grant scored three tries, with Pumas captain Jo Emslie adding a brace. The best tries came from Sylvia Chan and Sian Williams who both ghosted past several tacklers to touchdown after quick ball down the Pumas back line drew the Israeli defence.
Israel, who were outclassed in the 15’s but nonetheless resisted well, scored a well constructed consolation try in the final minutes of this match. Their best players were Daniela Gofberg and Bronwen Rosenblum-Manning who play for the Jerusalem Lionesses and Haifa rugby clubs respectively. Ofer Hamburger, the Israel Development Coach and former national men’s team prop forward, can take great credit in the performance of his team and can build from this.
All in all a wonderful week for both the hosts and the visiting London team, as a full itinerary plus the hospitality of the home union left both the Israelis and the British team with some very special memories. Israeli and British players socialised together of their own choice during the entire tour, which speaks for itself.
In the light of the recent World Masters Judo Championships, where the Israel team got consistently booed, it was a pleasure to see the Israel national flag and the Flag of St George fluttering side by side as the players posed for post match photos together. The Friendship Trophy was awarded by the IRU to Ellisha Dee the Pumas co coach.
More Project Israel sports tours are on the agenda but funding is needed. It’s regarded by many, after only 3 months in existence, as the best idea out there to combat the anti Israel boycott campaign.
SERIES RESULT: ISRAEL 2 LONDON PUMAS 2
INDIVIDUAL GAME RESULTS:
7’s match 1: Israel 7 Pumas 5
7’s match 2: Israel 15 Pumas 10
7’s match 3: Israel 5 Pumas 19
15’s match: Israel 7 Pumas 57