RCL Men can end the first half of the season with high expectations for 2012. Fourteen men (and, at one point 13) put in a sterling performance away to Bern, eventually losing 7 tries to 4. The team as a whole, and the pack in particular, showed their learning by conceding far fewer penalties than in previous games.
As is sadly the case this season, the pack endured a torrid time in the scrum last Saturday away to La Chaux-de-Fonds. Our opponents are particularly good at this part of the game. Nonetheless, our pack was able to put that aside, and competed extremely well in all other areas of the game. After a tough, slow start, we rucked and mauled well. We kept our heads when they could easily have dropped. A game like this demanded concentration at the break-down, so as to keep penalties to a minimum. Not letting our poor scrummaging affect the rest of our game showed a fighting spirit needed in this league, and especially from the less experienced and younger forwards.
While their pack was well-drilled, La Chaux-de-Fonds didn’t threaten our line too often, and the game was largely kept in the middle of the pitch. Our backs showed their superiority of their opposite numbers with some great running. Handling errors were a fraction of what they were against La Chaux-de-Fonds two weeks earlier. We know that we will never beat opponents for size, but our runners comfortably made up for this by running great lines and cutting through their defense regularly. With all three tries coming from the backs, it was clear who had the upper hand in open play. Sadly, a sure chance for a game-winning try was ruled out for a foot in touch (admittedly, correctly). Still, tackling throughout the team was quite an apparent weakness, and must be added to the list of issues to work on in training.
The disgraceful manner in which La Chaux-de-Fonds conducted themselves off the ball, and in rucks in particular, cannot be ignored. This ugly culture in certain circles of rugby in Switzerland is an unacceptable blight. Still, while it is a credit to RCL that they didn’t react to these cynical and dangerous tactics, the overall power and organisation of our opponents is clearly a target to emulate. RCL started by far the slower, less aggressive (in the legal sense) of the two. This cannot continue. Quite simply, RCL started far too timidly, and we deserved to feel the full force of wave after wave of La Chaux-de-Fonds pick-and-go’s, rucks and mauls.
Looking to 2012, RCL have huge potential for ending the season in a comfortable mid-table position. But there is so much work to be done. Not least: the scrum. However, the power and skill in La Chaux-de-Fonds’ scrum (and Lugano’s, too) was not due to massive size difference or inherently better-skilled forwards; it is simply the reward for long, tough training sessions. With a scrum machine on the way, the first part of the solution to our scrummaging weakness is going to be sorted; but this will be useless without the other part of our solution: consistent attendance by the pack at training.
Overall, with hard work, we will continue to close the gap on the Ligue B pace-setters. This is a natural outcome of our playing catch-up in terms of experience, training and our now-growing pool of player. While all Ligue B teams are doubtless training hard, with the right attitude and attendance, we will improve at a faster rate, in comparison to where the other 9 teams started from back in the Summer.
Finally, as we head into the Winter break, congratulations on this season’s debutants. It is great to see many new faces in the club (and the streaks are a big favourite with our passionate supporters), many of whom have made the transition from training to matches with impressive speed and determination. We look forward to seeing the other new players take to the pitch in 2012. I am sure they are chomping at the bit, waiting for their chance to run around the bus naked, getting laughed at by women, then be *assessed* by Guido…
La Chaux-de-Fonds 19 – 19 RCL
Tupak Dave, Dani Marciano, Right Said Fred