Holding on to triumph 8-6 in Rotterdam, visitors Germany retained the Griffin Cup – but only just, after an impressive display from a new-look Dutch side.
Following Emerson Werk’s converted opener for the hosts, on eight minutes, and early tries by Jannek Hagenah and David Ziekursch’s for Germany, the final hour of the tense match was scoreless.
“We fielded our strongest national team yet,” said Nederlandse Rugby League Bond president, Thijs van der Zouwen. “Never before have our players played so many matches during the domestic season, nor have we had so many trying out for the squad in the Netherlands.
“We had a great training camp in the week running up to the match. Our national coach Kane Krlic selected a great set of lads, all willing to work hard, listen and improve themselves. In a limited amount of time he managed to form a tight-knit team.
“Kane has really raised the level of the sport in our country. His knowledge of the game has been a tremendous help to both players and coaches in the Netherlands. We might not have won this time but we feel we can build on this result. Ten out of the 17 players were under 24 years old. We may have lost some experience with the absence of veterans like Jorge Vasquez and Jason Bruygoms. but their replacements did an excellent job.
“Our hooker Joe Storm showed great perseverance when he dislocated his shoulder but returned to the match after the medical staff managed to pull it back in. We hope to keep the core of this team together and build on it in the coming years.”
German co-coach, Bob Douhgton said: “This was a tough encounter with the Dutch. They have a much-improved side and we had fielded only domestic players,” he excused the close win. “In the latter stages we were unable to take advantage of good field position, despite being camped in the Dutch quarter for long periods. Thankfully our defence held up though and we were able to retain the Griffin Cup for another year.”
This year’s two-point defeat is the closest the Dutch have come to the trophy: in 2013 Germany won 28-22, in 2014 the Dutch were crushed 70-16 at home, and in June 2015 Germany won 46-12.
“The German team and staff are a good bunch of guys, ” said Thijs van der Zouwen on behalf of the NRLB. “Post-match exchanges turned out to be quite productive as both nations are looking to see how we can grow grassroots league. We discussed how we can help each other out, and hopefully Dutch clubs will be playing friendly fixtures against German teams in the coming months.”