The pristine field of Bassets Rugby Club in Sassenheim witnessed a spectacle of Rugby League as the Netherlands Lions took on Norway RL.
From the first whistle, Netherlands looked sharp and organised. Their efforts bore fruit in just the 3rd minute, as Frank Longhurst elegantly found his way through Norwegian defense to score down the right. The home crowd cheered, sensing a positive start to their international season.
But the game quickly settled into an arm-wrestle. Efforts from the Netherlands in the 10th minute saw them drive once again down the left, but Maas van der Reek failed to grasp a tricky bounce pass.
Norway, although struggling to establish a strong foothold, managed to mount an attack in the 15th minute, with a well-placed grubber kick. But it was expertly collected by the Netherlands full-back, Harry Mulligan, showcasing his skills right on his line.
The Netherlands soon responded, stretching their lead further in the 18th minute as Maas van der Reek finally found the whitewash thanks to some exquisite passing from his teammates. However, the ensuing conversion attempt from the touchline went astray.
As the warm afternoon sun bore down, the intensity of the game waned. A significant try from Mike Prins, followed by a conversion from Mulligan, had the home team at a comfortable 16-0. But Norway’s spirited scrum-half, Jamaal Mellor-King, breathed life into his side, putting them on the board. This spurred the Dutch, who responded with two more tries to end the first half 28-6.
Emerging from half-time, Lucas Thomson of the Netherlands added more pain to Norway with an impressive try and a self-conversion. But the Norwegians, known for their grit, fought back. Their forwards took the game to the Dutch, with tries from Martin Hoyland and Mellor-King closing the gap.
However, Mike Prins was unstoppable on the day, getting this second try of the day, gathering an astute grubber kick close to the line. Though Norway managed another try courtesy of their loose-forward Simon Olsen, the Dutch had the last word. With tries from Lars Mudde, Tom Turnock, Mitch Donelly and another from Thomson, the Netherlands ran away with the game 58-22.
Despite the commanding scoreline, it did flatter the Lions. They know that sterner tests await in the form of Albania and Serbia in the coming weeks.
A big thank you to Bassets Rugby Club, Sassenheim, for hosting this wonderful game and the 229 fans who attended. Thanks to Norway Rugby League for flying in for the match and safe travels home. The Lions will hope to carry this momentum forward and make this season a memorable one.
Match reporter: James Campbell
Photo: Beech Photography