By Andy Mulhall, Date: 20/3/14
The 2014 Czech rugby league season kicked-off with the third annual CZRLA pre-season 9s tournament. The tournament was won by the Pardubice-Chrudim team – wearing the South Sydney Rabbitohs kit recently bestowed on the Chrudim club by the Australian rugby league powerhouse – who defeated the host club, Slavia Hradec Kralove, in the final.
It was the second outing by the Pardubice-Chrudim team – who this season will combine the respective playing rosters of the neighbouring Pardubice and Chrudim clubs, and field teams in both the 1st & 2nd Divisions of the Czech Rugby League – but a much better result than their first game together, a trial in which they were defeated by a suberbly drilled Pavel Kubasta-coached Orli Havlickuv Brod on the first Saturday of March.
Pardubice-Chrudim started the pre-season 9s tournament momentously, winning the afternoon’s opening game against Lokomotiva Beroun 24-8. It was Beroun’s first defeat in any form of Czech rugby league since they were defeated by the Pardubice Jets in the 2011 CZRLA Grand Final. Since that game they had gone undefeated in all domestic competition, winning the pre-season 9s, and the Czech 1st Division Championship and Grand Finals, in both 2012 & 2013. Pardubice-Chrudim and Beroun subsequently recorded close victories over the Eagles from Havlickuv Brod to round out the Pool A games.
In Pool B of the tournament, host club Slavia Hradec Kralove defeated 2012 CZRLA 2nd Division Champions, Mikulov Roosters and their former ‘big brother’ club, the Vrchlabi Mad Squirrels, with Jan Heininger leading the way with a series of barnstorming runs, to set up a much anticipated local derby final, as well as something of a rematch between the combatants of the 2013 CZRLA 2nd Division Grand Final in which the then Chrudim Angels (pre-rebranding to the Rabbitohs) defeated Hradec Kralove. Unfortunately for the host team, despite another brave effort in the final, the Jets & Rabbitohs lead players – Marek Pluhar, Vit Rejda, Jiri Novak, Vit Caslavka & emerging star Patrik Koliska – engineered a two tries to nil victory in front of an enthusiastic home crowd of several hundred.
The 2014 CZRLA 1st Division Championship season kicks-off this weekend with Teplice Dragons, who chose not to play in the pre-season 9s to avoid the risk of early season injuries, making the CZRLA’s longest away trek journey to play Mikulov Roosters, and Pardubice-Chrudim looking to make it 2 wins from 2 encounters when they take on Lokomotiva Beroun at home. 7 teams will compete in the extended CZRLA 1st Division Championship in 2014, with the home & away season played before the July summer hiatus, followed by an extended 8 team play-off series post-summer which will include all of the 1st Division teams + the leading 2nd Division club, & will culminate in the 1st Division Grand Final to be played on the first weekend of November.