Players and coaching staff from Ukraine’s all-conquering Kharkiv Olymp rugby club took center stage in late October as the Ukrainian national side opened their European Championship campaign with a hard-fought victory over Sweden in Odesa. The opening match of Conference 1 North saw Ukraine defeat the veteran Swedes 29:8, but this score disguises what was a close contest that at times threatened to boil over into clashes.
The Ukrainian national team went into the game led by Kharkiv Olymp Valeriy Kochanov and with a starting 15 dominated by players from Oleksandr Yaroslavsky’s triumphant Kharkiv club side. Olymp secured a clean sweep of domestic rugby honors in Ukraine this season, so it was no surprise to see the club continue its dominance of the national rugby team.
This reliance on Kharkiv Olymp paid off as a pair of tries from Serhiy Tserkovnyi and Valentyn Lytvynenko apiece, together with great kicking from the ever-reliable Kosarev, saw Ukraine power into an unassailable lead. However, tempers frayed as the contest reached a climax, with Ukraine receiving two yellow cards and one red card in the final minutes of the match.
Ukraine’s next European Championship tie is away to Lithuania on 4 November.