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Climbing a Division, Israel Falls to Switzerland

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Israel's national rugby team, winning the match against Andorra, April 12, 2014.

Israel lost 28-18 to Switzerland last Saturday in the opening game of its European Division 2A campaign. In front of some 2,000 spectators at the Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sports, the hosts put up an admirable performance against a formidable Swiss side.

After the Swiss ran in a try after only five minutes, a mauling looked on the cards, but Israel’s back line stood firm with a series of crunching tackles and counter-attacks that produced penalties, and at half-time the Swiss led 15-6.

Israel attacked strongly early in the second half, narrowing the gap to 15-11 when Guy Matisis’s try capped a period of team pressure. But the Swiss’ near-total dominance in the line-outs and scrums eventually resulted in two more tries – including their second pushover try of the game – and the visitors stretched their lead to 28-11 as the game wore down.

The Israelis’ never-say-die attitude was rewarded late in the game as flying winger Yoni Radshkowitz touched down Israel’s second try of the game. Ori Abutbul kicked two penalties and a conversion for 8 points.

“I am proud of the way the team played today,” said national team coach Ra’anan Penn after the game. “We have progressed and proved that we deserve to be in this division.”

This is Israel’s first season in the second tier of European rugby, having gained promotion last season. Division 2A comprises Israel, the Czech Republic, Malta, Croatia and Switzerland. Israel’s next game is in Croatia on November 8.

During the half-time break, the Israel Rugby Union honored the first national team to tour Europe in 1981, which made its international debut in a 9-9 draw with Switzerland in Geneva. A plaque was presented to each of the players. The captain of the 1981 team, Milton Kaplan, has the distinct honor of having both of his sons, Yonatan and Nimrod, play in the national team as well as captaining the side.

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