After several games playing below our potential, RCL got a lot closer to it in a home game to last season’s 4th placed team (and not far off 2nd), Neuchatel. We had afforded La Chaux de Fonds, Fribourg and Bern too much respect, and had lost out each time on at least a deserved bonus point. RCL started very well, with two tries in the first 20 mins. Our level of intensity, and the way in which we harassed our opponents, made it difficult to a strong Neuchatel to settle. While they pulled a try back nearer half time, RCL were in relative control. The scrums were excellent, with good use of wheeling when needed. At 9, 7 and 6, we pressured their scrum and halfbacks well. Shamrock ball was used often and well, with not just the right pace, but the right timing and execution. Clearance kicks from 9 were great, with Hugo ball used well when we were under pressure. The support rucking through the game was strong.
In the second half, Neuchatel took control. However, RCL defended their pick-and-gos and fat boys well enough that danger was held off. Still, the old problem of not chasing up fast and in a line haunted us. Several times, one man was left along with Neuchatel on the charge. Predictably, this gave them massive ground. Eventually, this led to their try – and it all started from their 10 meter line. Harsh lesson for switching off.
RCL are continuing to work on more effective rucking, working on eliminating that nasty habit of winning the first couple of seconds of a ruck…then relaxing and losing the ball… Part of this is better communication: more talk, taking responsibility and better concentration go hand in hand. In the mauls, too. And when we go for mauls – mostly from lineouts – we’re as good as anyone else. We need to watch out for guys going quiet: one great way of losing the nerves is to talk and take leadership roles. This is connected with the intensity and concentration we sometimes lack: winning a lineout and mauling with speed and aggression is a chance for our pack to show their strength, and should be seen more often.
RCL are improving nicely, and trying things out done in training and discussed as a squad – like pick-and-go, fat boys, Shamrock, tap penalties. It then takes balance: learning when, where and how often to try them. But, above all else, none are any use trying without everyone being ready and willing to fight for every meter. A quick tap is only as good as its support… Finally, there is a need for the player under pressure to simply take it in and go to ground when the area’s too crowded – such as when their defense is up fast. For every last player in the squad: under pressure, cancelling a move and creating a ruck is never a mistake.
Still, conceding a try from poor defense with 5 mins to go after having led for 70 mins might have finished us off. RCL fought all the way back and stayed in Nauchatel’s 22 for the rest of the game. And our pressure paid off with a penalty which was slotted over for a classic Roy of the Rovers win with the last kick of the game.
Result: RCL 13 – 10 Neuchatel
Man of the Match: Huggie Bear
Twat of the Match: Laurence of Arabia
Onward to hosting bottom-of-the-table Wurenlos. Still, a team that does not deserve its position and its lack of points. Sadly, again, RCL caught the “Ireland syndrome,” and went easy on a weaker team. The first half is best not mentioned, and the problem issues are all stated above. The second half showed great RCL character. The most serious issue from the first half – lack of intensity – was quickly corrected, and the ability of RCL was quickly shown. We picked up 2 nice tries in that half, and controlled a tricky opposition well – although yet another bonus point was lost. Playing badly (for a half, anyway), and winning comfortably enough in the end, is a great sign. Still, we had to admire Wurenlos for their intensity and aggression. Ah, perhaps RCL are destined to be the nice guys of Swiss rugby…
Result: RCL 26 – 11 Wurenlos
Men of the Match: Bananaman & Matt Busby
Twat of the Match: Barry McGuigan