At certain times in recent history, wherever chance would find a person in the company of a bunch of rugby-playing girls from Innerschweiz, that person would often encounter an energetic, loud red-haired German girl shouted out loud: “SATURDAY IS THE RUGBY DAY!!!” Well on Saturday at 06:50 in the morning, 8 sleepy rugby-mad Dangels and one sleepy bald coach met up at the end of platform 8 and probably could have done with that German girl shouting in their ears to wake them up. In the end, we had to make do with cappuccino, gipfeli and schöggibröttli to do that (or in Esti’s case, a huge plastic tub of pasta mixed in with tuna, schinken, avocado, onion, pesto and… carrot?!)! Thus it was that the team merrily made their way on the long journey to Geneva; then the tram ride to CERN (without any valid tickets in our possession – a small victory for the German-speaking part already!); past the large hadron collider and a short bus trip over the border to the rugby pitch.
After getting our free T-shirts and finding ourselves in glorious French sunshine, everyone agreed that the commitment shown to make this long journey was already worthwhile. However, although the tournament was billed as a bit of fun, everyone knows that when Luzern plays rugby we play to win – today was no different.
The format was 6 teams playing each other once, with the top 4 going on to the semi-finals and then the winners meeting in a final. Joining Luzern for the battle royal were (on paper) Nyon, Zurich, Bern and two teams from Cern. In reality, Cern fed their two teams from the same squad of around 12 players, whilst Zurich and Bern joined forces as each had only brought around 5 or 6 players themselves. With Nyon coming from just up the road, it says a lot for the commitment of the Dangels that we could provide a team by ourselves despite the long distance to travel.
After a good warm-up, it was straight into action against Zurich Valkyries (who thought that Valkyries would be a good name? ok, I guess it is better than Grasshoppers, but still not exactly easy to say in a chant… “Go Val-ky-ries…”… er…?!) . Zurich only took a couple of Bern’s players and not their dangerous ones. A great performance saw the Dangels hit the ground running, winning 33-7. Carole scored 4 tries and Esti got 1.
Next up were Nyon Mermaids. Not long ago Nyon provided regular opposition against Luzern. After leaving the league last season, it was good to see them send a team to this tournament, albeit not having to travel far. Hopefully the players they sent to this tournament don’t leave after the pounding they took on the day. As the English would say, they were “cannon fodder”. A 57-0 spanking from the Dangels was not an over-exaggeration of the dominance shown by der Schweizer Meister. Lala decided she would stop chatting to all the opposition rugby players who were trying to become her new best friend and do her talking on the pitch, scoring 4 tries. Manu scored 2, whilst Lea, Carole and Esti also scored.
Next up was the big one – Bern Red Devils (with a couple of Valkyries chucked in). This would be a good indicator for the final, with early performances marking these two teams out as the ones to beat. A veritable clash of the titans. After trading early blows, Bern took the lead but the Dangels would not go down without a fight. Despite having about 30% of possession, Esti (2) and Lea scored to tie the game up at 19-19 at the final whistle. Considering we couldn’t get our hands on the ball, the Dangels’ defence was excellent (Manu in particular defending well to cover against quick runners) and we scored when we had to. Everything pointed to a re-match for the final and if we could get our hands on the ball, then Bern would struggle.
Luzern still had to play Cern’s first and second team. Cern 1 were up first, and just like the large hadron collider just up the road, the Dangels smashed into them with all the force of… well, sub-atomic particles. With ferocious tackling, in particular from Richi and Tammie who were like two hounds with the scent of blood in their nostrils, Luzern won convincingly 34-5. Carole ran riot yet again, scoring 5 tries and Esti getting 1.
The organisers then decided there was little point in playing the last group games as Bern and Luzern were already top by some way, whilst CERN 1 and CERN 2 would finish 3rd and 4th. Also, it would have been a little bit embarrassing trying to play Zurich v Bern with only 5 players on each side. So the semi-finals took place, Luzern with a rematch against CERN 1 and Bern playing CERN 2 (although this was basically CERN 1.2). Again a convincing win, 33-7, saw the Dangels into the final. Carole scored 3, Esti scored 2. The team played great with Isa rucking and running nicely, whilst Lea got some early practise for St Gallen by taking her imaginary cutlass to the opposition scrum half and shivering her timbers… “Ye-haaaaaarrrrrrr!!!”
So after a short break it was the final against Bern, who had only just beaten CERN1.2. Unfortunately the Dangels would be without Carole for this battle as she had hurt her shoulder in the previous match and the sensible option was to rest it with important rugby to play the next weekend. A very tired but motivated Luzern lined-up for the final fired up by the loss of their captain for the day and were determined to win the metal boot stuck to a piece of wood/polystyrene that CERN had creatively made for the trophy. Possession would be key for this match. If we could get hold of the ball more than in the Group Stage, we could hurt them. The first half saw the Dangels play some of their best rugby of the day. Use of all 7 players passing it from wing to wing was great to see and the game was virtually played in the Bern 22. Alas, when so close to going over, Luzern conceded possession and got hit on the counter 3 times. At half-time we were down 19-7, with Lea scoring a good try in-between their 2nd and 3rd scores. During the break, the bald coach did his best impression of Al Pacino in the film Any given Sunday but it was not to be. A quick score by Bern at the beginning of the second half after some weak tackling in the centre saw heads drop and bodies slump. The second half was a no-contest as the Red Devils (with a beak and some feathers thrown in) took advantage of a Luzern team who had given everything throughout the day, had very little rest and with no fresh legs to enter the field. Final score: 39-7. This was hugely unfair on the Dangels and not reflective of the performances of everyone throughout the tournament. A message to all who took part – remember this feeling next time we play Bern with even a normal-sized squad, let alone our full squad. Remember.
In fairness, we must give credit to Bern who had some excellent individual performances on the day and were gracious winners. Also much respect must go to CERN, who organised everything really well and should try to do this next year – great weather, good rugby, decent bbq and some beers. Let us hope Zurich and Bern can bring bigger squads in future so we can really have a good, big tournament more fully representing their teams. Let us hope Nyon keep coming back and improving. Finally, let us hope we can also bring a bigger squad next year so that we don’t have to experience the heartache of losing a final by a score that doesn’t do us justice. Even two more players in our squad would have made a massive difference and allowed bigger rests for everyone. The experience and extensive game time all the girls got will certainly help them going forward, however.
Last thing to report; after everyone had showered and joined up for the bbq, Tammie did her best impression of Judith to take all the girls drinking beers in a round of “Saturday’s the rugby day”. Volume certainly wasn’t a problem… but getting the days right was more problematic! 🙂
Written by Luke