Zenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, June 6-7, 2009
Tournament Report, Team Switzerland
The Swiss women’s 7s Nati, led by Head Coach Petra Tretter, headed to Bosnia by bus on Thursday night. After a 17-hour drive the team arrived in Zenica to check into Hotel Internacional, a long-ago glorious Tito-Era Palace, still retaining all its authenticity from those olden days. After settling into the luxurious accommodation facilities and enjoying a quick lunch, the team went out for a light training session to shake the bus-ride out of the players limbs, and to run through last preparations for the next day’s games. After a relaxing evening, team dinner, and a team meeting to announce the playing squad for the opening game, the team had an early night to be ready for the next day’s games.
On Saturday, team Switzerland crossed the bridge to the pitch, a nice stadium complex located just 5 minutes away from the hotel, complete with main pitch, running track, warm-up pitch, and even an indoor track and dressing room facilities built under the main stand. After a brief opening ceremony, the Schwizer Nati prepared for its opening match against the Ukraine. An unknown to team Switzerland, Ukraine was ranked 8th or 9th (out of 10) coming into the tournament. This proved to be a good warm-up match for team Switzerland, as their captain Carole Casparis led the team out to a quick start, with Switzerland scoring some rapid opening tries thanks to overwhelming ball possession. Although the Swiss players had a few opening jitters here and there, the 24-0 run against Ukraine helped shake the initial nervousness out of their system.
After an hour’s break, the next mission for the Nati was against the home team, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Well aware that when playing the home team initial ranking has little significance, the Swiss team set out to play its own fast, smart, expansive game despite the raucous home-crowd support the opponent was enjoying. Team Switzerland managed to carry through its offensive play quite well, and despite some defensive organizational shortcomings came out the clear 42-0 winner over the hosts.
Switzerland’s final test of the day came after a long lunch-break, against Serbia. Playing the first half into a strong headwind cause by a brewing thunderstorm overhead, team Switzerland was thankful for the cooling it brought to the otherwise hot climate. Pushing hard into the wind, the Swiss team ran out to a solid lead in the first half, anchored by the overwhelming power of its strong scrum of Rahel Bosshard, Sarah Stuart, and Anuschka Buob, leaving the opponent little chance to win even their own ball in the scrum. The team then expanded their lead in the second half, through smart play with the wind at their backs, flying into the open spaces between and around the Serbian defense. The final score was Switzerland 51, Serbia 0.
This marked the end of the first day of competition, with Switzerland standing in first place in its pool, tied with Hungary, who looked very strong throughout the first day, and had also yet to loose a match.
After some free-time to relax, a team dinner, team meeting with video analysis of the days’ games, and strategy discussion for the next day with assistant coach George Lucas, the team enjoyed a couple of hours’ tour through downtown Zenica, an industrial town with a very nice old city center, spared mostly from bombing throughout the Bosnian war of the 1990s.
The next morning team Switzerland resumed play under the searing hot Bosnian sun, with the wind yet to pick up, and temperatures around 36 degrees. Their last pool match against team Hungary was clear to be a tough encounter. The team’s focuses for the game were set as: constant triangle-support to counteract Hungary’s double-tackling, increased depth in swing-attacks to change side of the field, and improved defensive alignment to stop Hungary’s fast wingers. Thanks to the team’s hard work at keeping focus on their goals, and some excellent offload combinations between quick center Carolin Reischauer and team veteran Barbara Frauenfeld, the Swiss came out to a good lead in the first half. In the second half the Swiss expanded on this in a massive effort in the searing heat, led by a quick pick-and-run try from Fabienne Ullmann and a fast dash around the outside for a try by Esti Duss. With a final score of 32 to 0, Switzerland took first place in their pool, and thereby played themselves into the Semi-Final, against Team Denmark.
Using the following lunch-break for some more video analysis while trying to cool down a bit in the catacombs of the Zenica stadium, the team realized it had fulfilled two of the three goals it had set for its game against Hungary. Only the defensive organization was still not perfect, and was to become the next focus, along with impeccable offensive decision-making, against semi-final opponent Denmark who had taken a surprising second place in its pool. Thankfully a few clouds had arrived and the previous day’s wind had resumed, when Switzerland took the field for its semifinal against Denmark. In this match, the Swiss team finally clicked into place 100% in every aspect of its game, and played superb, almost error-free 7s rugby for 14 minutes, coming out the convincing winners with a score of 39 to 0, having made very few mistakes, getting their defensive alignment in place impeccably, and attacking all the right spaces in a superbly concerted effort. This success put team Switzerland into the Final against Poland, ranked at the top of Division B, from the previous year.
At 17:30 on Sunday team Switzerland took the pitch, cheered on by a sizeable crowd. Again the wind was strong and again Switzerland played against it for the first half of a Final, to be played in two longer halves of 10 minutes each. The match was refereed by the excellent Italian female referee (Name?). Team Switzerland, now that it had found its perfect groove, was not to be stopped or even deterred. With the 36-degree heat, the 17-hour busride, and the entire rugby tournament in their bones, the Swiss team sprang into the game as if they had just spilled freshly out of the pages of a 7s rugby textbook. Technically impeccable hooker Emily Hart, anchoring another strong Swiss scrum, left the opponent no chance at any balls, not even their own. A fantastic final against a strong Polish team was accentuated, among many others, by Barbara Frauenfeld’s breakaway try, scored one play after having her nose broken by a stray referee hand signal, and minutes after cracking a previously-injured rib. The entire team’s effort was then capped by a last-minute double-dummy-scissor try orchestrated by Christa Herrmann and the flying Swiss backline. Final score: Switzerland 37, Poland 0
Switzerland outscored its opponents throughout the tournament by a combined 225 points to ZERO, to take the crown as the 2009 European 7s rugby Champions, Division B. Switzerland hereby advances to Division A for next year.
Casparis, Carole (c)
Report by Vroni Mühlhofer