Kick-offs can be so decisive at times. Certainly one way to hand over momentum to your opposition is to do so by failing to execute your kick-off adequately. But perhaps more than that, there is the failure to determine what you are going to do at kick-off which speaks more of a willingness to concede before beginning.
RCL found themselves back in the centre of the field two minutes after the whistle went for kick-off having conceded a scrum. Neuchatel, clearly in terms of weight in the front three and height in the second row, were favourites to win the scrums. And win they did. There was unfortunately little RCL could do to withstand the demoralisation that was brought about by the first…, and second, and third scrum! If RCL had had their heads up before kick-off, they didn’t any more. And this characterised most of the first half. Neuchatel won all the scrums and there was little RCL could do as they were out-gunned in weight in the scrums and rucks. Indeed, although RCL had so many opportunities for quick ball in the rucks, counter-rucking turned the tide too often than not owing to greater weight being pushed against a lighter rucking pack.
Much the same could be said of the line-outs as well. Neuchatel were clearly much in the advantage as they had so much height. When RCL were crafty and threw to the back, often the opposition were caught on the hop and good ball was made available to the backs. But still, a handful of tries gave the home-side the upper-hand. But still, it must be said of RCL that they also spent 20 minutes defending where no try was scored. This is a defence that had learned from its mistakes last week and had taken the learning into the game. There is no mistaking how much progress RCL players make individually and collectively as a team every week.
The second half was a different story. As the Neuchatel forwards began to lose in strength being made to play back and forth across the field, so their weaknesses began to show. Forwards began taking the game to the opposition and bursts were made through their defensive line putting Neuchatel on the back-foot and Luzern firmly on the front-foot. Indeed, RCL won the second half hands down. Neuchatel might have had a couple of decent phases of ball, but it was Luzern whose mode of play dominated the field. Quick rucking, and ball going out wide to the wing saw Luzern begin to shine. Once again, a team effort turned the game around for RCL. Strength and stamina as well as the desire to go forward put RCL near the try-line and had there been a try at 20 minutes to go, RCL would have been well back in the game. It didn’t seem as if the game was over even 10 minutes before the final whistle. In fact, the way RCL played, you would have had to assert that only the opposite were true – that even then, a victory could have been possible. As has been mentioned many times since the final whistle: to turn a game around like that and keep fighting to the end! That takes courage.