Bit of a flashback to 12 months ago. Lots of established players missing, and playing one of the better teams in Ligue B. 16 RCL men traveled to La Chaux-de-Fonds in awful (see: Irish) conditions for September. In all, 3 guys made their league debuts, and 3 played out of position. We had no subs or coach for 60 mins. Nice. And we lost our #8 and lineout jumper after 20 minutes with what thankfully turned out to be a less serious injury than we first thought. (All the best with the recovery, Oli. Go easy operating heavy machinery…)
But enough of the excuse-making. This is Ligue B, and we fought. Hard. La Chaux-de-Fonds, to their credit, are likely the best scrummagers in Ligue B, and were considerably bigger and better than last season. The match remained scoreless for about half an hour, despite a lot of pressure on RCL. Still, for the whole game, there wasn’t all that much play inside our 22, although most of the game was certainly played without our half.
The scrums were horrible, and our two back-rowers in the front row (one with terrible sniffles) did what they could. To put it into needed perspective, RCL will face perhaps 2 other scrummaging packs that could compete with what La Chaux-de-Fonds gave us. Still, outside scrums, the game was reasonably even. They had a lot more ball thanks to the scrums, but they didn’t gain massive ground too often. RCL are turning into a good defensive unit, and fewer and fewer mistakes are being made whilst defending rucks. When we keep tackling, and staying on our feet at rucks, the opposition will make mistakes. However, tackling in midfield was often poor – by all. Granted, La Chaux-de-Fonds also had massive backs – again, not all that common in Ligue B – but low tackle after low tackle after low tackle is the only way we will manage these teams. The improvement of back row support for the backs in midfield is an ongoing project.
Lineouts went really well – and that’s a relief, given our record. Losing Oli after 20 minutes was tough, but we managed. RCL work hard to win against the head, and that continued well. Our pick-and-go went well, showing a strength of ours. Likewise, when players are confident, alert and ambitious enough, our tap penalties are proving to cause opponents a tough time. We have explosive, elusive runners, and this is what’s needed to tire out the bigger packs. Our try came eventually, and no more than we deserved. Our quick penalties and fast backs paid off.
Well done to the new boys. Imam got the call Friday evening, and acquitted himself very well in a makeshift backline against some hard hitters. While our back 3 saw precious little of the ball, Mario did well on the wing – but, as his ear shows, he needs to be careful with his hands in the ruck… Yannic* Graber got an hour, and played a stormer. A difficult position at flanker with the scrums going backwards, Junior tackled well, and saw a good amount of ball.
In sum, were we to know what we were about to be facing in La Chaux-de-Fonds, with the resources we had, I think most of us would have accepted a 3-tries-to-1 defeat. Conversely, La Chaux-de-Fonds will not be happy not having gotten the bonus point. On to next weekend against Fribourg.
La Chaux-de-Fonds 21 – 7 RCL
*Since nobody has been arsed giving him a nickname, Yannic Graber is now called “Junior”…