RCL Men faced a tough opposition on Saturday in last season’s Ligue A team, Fribourg.
We set out with two main objectives: improved (lower) tackling; and quicker, unified pressure upon the opposition by our defensive line. Both were greatly improved. In addition to the two main goals, we set out to leave nothing on the pitch. No lack of heart; no lack of commitment; no relaxation of intensity. Here, there could be no complaint. Job done.
Our tackling was fierce; our backs – especially with so much more ball in the 2nd half – ran well; the backs tackled ferociously in midfield; our rucking was not only strong, but our standing-up and waiting for the next phase showed great composure and stamina; our lineouts continue to improve; and our scrums held well in the second half. Overall, we showed great character to sustain huge pressure in the 1st half, and to keep a cool head when other teams would have conceded serveral more tries. Keeping a team like Fribourg pinned in their half in the 2nd half, and to keep them scoreless, shows RCL’s growth.
Unfortunately, what we did do was fail to bring something onto the pitch: self-belief. RCL certainly do not suffer from arrogance or inflated self-esteem. However, we are simply too far the other way. We deferred to the high-quality opposition for most of the first half, assuming their higher level of ability was too much for us.
The lack of self-belief belied the performance in the second half. It is hard to recall more than short bursts of play where we were in our own 22, or even perhaps within our own 10 metre line. We owned the second half – in a game against a likely top-3 team. Our tackling continues to improve, and we gave a tough team no easy route to our line, with our quick defensive line and great rucking from the pack.
Perhaps it was this second half turn-around in fortunes that stopped us executing any of our possession: we had so much more ball than we expected. While our tap penalties is making life extremely difficult for bigger packs, we will continue to work on a game plan that makes more of this possession. Likewise, the scrums and lineouts are the perennial project. Fitness will continue to improve through hard work and commitment.
Discussing this self-belief issue is not an indictment of the players; this is systemic through the club. While we were close to relegation last season, we also rememebr that we couldn’t field our strongest team for the first 2 months. This season, we do not have this problem. We faced a Fribourg team who had eased past Neuchatel 28-5 – Neuchatel being the team, but for a lack of bonus points, that would have finished 2nd in Ligue B last season. On Saturday, it is fair to say we were at least worth a bonus point, such was the relative balance over the 80 mins. While, when we play the “lower half” teams of Ligue B, we will concentrate fully, let’s remember what we did to a recent Ligue A team Saturday when we face the rest of the top teams in Ligue B.
RCL 0 – 18 Fribourg