After two disappointing matches to open the season, the RCL Dangels knew that nothing other than their very best would do against arch-rivals Zurich at Allmend on Saturday. With plenty of experienced players absent from the match, it was testament to the strength of the squad that we were still able to put out a strong side with 6 replacements eager to come on the field.
Zurich began the match strongly and kept possession of the ball for most of the opening 20 minutes with their simple but effective direct play. Whilst their rucking to retain possession was impressive, clearly we needed to be more competitive at the breakdown. However, despite taking 95% possession in this time, Zurich rarely came near the Luzern 22 metre line. Every time a girl came with the ball, she was met with a fierce tackle. It would be only a matter of time before the home team would get their hands on the ball and when that time came, the metres made by Luzern’s willing runners caused significant damage.
Esti, playing her first game at fly-half in a while due to the injured Sarah S, led the line brilliantly and with Mac’s experience on her shoulder at inside centre, both began to build on their strong defence with some hard-running. After Zurich were penalised several times for hands in the ruck and diving over the top, a lineout taken resulted in good driving runs down the right side from the forwards, good recycled ball and neat hands out wide from the backs. After several phases inched Luzern closer to the line, another penalty awarded 5 metres out was tapped by Mac and popped to Cynthia, who was never going to be stopped. 5-0 and the momentum was all with the Dangels.
The final 15 minutes of the first half was played predominantly on Luzern’s terms. Now whenever Zurich ran with the ball, they had to work to retain possession, Nadja in particular being a nuisance at the ruck in what was a great individual performance on the day. Luzern’s tackling remained of the highest standard, whilst scrums and lineouts where now being won after initially struggling. No further points could be added before half-time. Manu and Aline, who both put in great shifts despite not being at 100%, were replaced at the break by Viola and Lindsay – making her debut in 15’s rugby after showing some great work in training.
The momentum built up by the home side at the end of the first half was always going to be difficult to continue and Zurich came out re-energised after the break. Just 3 minutes in and some powerful forward play resulted in a near carbon-copy score of Luzern’s first try, despite some desperate tackling on the line. 5-5 and all to play for.
It is a testament to the spirit of this side that nobody let their heads fall. Instead, the Dangels went right back at Zurich and gave them everything they had. Credit to both teams for some brutal tackling – it was incredible that nobody was stretchered off, with hit after hit sapping the energy of some very tired players.
Despite this, both sides’ defensive lines held firm – until a turnover in the Luzern 22 helped the Dangels clear their lines. Rather than kick, Carole saw an opportunity to take advantage of the lack of Zurich players on the right side of the field, surging past and making it all the way to the try line despite some brilliant cover running by the Zurich fullback. The conversion made it 12-5. Would the conversion prove crucial?
A great chance to go two scores in front went begging when a superb run down the left by Mac, with Carole in close support, had Luzern in a 2-on-1 situation. Unfortunately, Mac’s unselfish pass was wayward and we will never know if Carole would have made the score or not. Still, credit to Mac for creating the chance in a game where chances were few and far between due to the outstanding defending of both sides.
With 15 minutes left, Cynthia was yellow carded for having hands in the ruck – the unlucky one to be penalised after the team had been warned multiple times previously. Zurich took advantage, the opposition number 10 hitting a gap brilliantly and running through to score under the posts. The conversion levelled the scores at 12-12. Could Luzern hang on with 14 players? Of course we could.
The match was played out until both sets of players could give no more. A draw was a fair result for two teams that gave their all. Zurich had much more possession, but Luzern did more with the ball they had. A lot of experienced players will return for the Dangels this week and after Christmas. Perhaps the same applies for Zurich, who played hard and didn’t deserve to lose this match. What is for sure is that the match at their ground on 6th April will be a massive, massive game. But we cannot look that far ahead – Bern away next weekend is a critical match before the Winter pause and everyone needs to be ready to go again in another big battle.
Angel of the match: Esti – superb performance at fly-half. Zurich also gave her their woman of the match award which says it all.
Devil of the match: Mac for not putting Carole through when 2 on 1!