Aggiornamento: 21 ott
With time, the Scambio will rightly look back with great pride upon her efforts in the ‘21/’22 championship.
The heroic display on the 25th of June under the scorching Villorba sun will certainly live long in the memory for anyone who was there.
And the third-place cup which followed us back to Padova will sit proudly in the trophy cabinet for many years to come.
It was, after all, a first ever podium finish for this touch rugby club.
And how tremendously hard this group of players worked in order to achieve it.
Only the fullness of time will give testimony to their accomplishments.
For now, however, not yet a month on from an extraordinary final day, thoughts of what might have been still weigh heavily on collective hearts and minds.
Lest anyone has forgotten, the Scambio had perennial champions Brianza on the rack in a semi-final for the ages.
The Lombardian aristocrats hadn’t lost a game in the finals for the previous six years, but with just eight minutes remaining in this one, they trailed 4-2 to the swashbuckling Scambio after a phenomenal opening salvo.
With victory beginning to veer into focus, and Verona awaiting the victors in the final, third place was the last thing on Scambio minds.
Could this really be happening? Were we destined to become champions?
Cue one of those strange sporting occurrences, where time seems to stand still as the wheels slowly come off, just meters from the winning post.
Passes that were sticking in the first half were now going to ground. And where tactical clarity had reigned, indecision became the order of the day.
Pressure, no doubt, played a part. Exhaustion, too.
And as the mistakes began to mount, Brianza began to grow in confidence.
Experienced campaigners each and every one, it wasn’t their first time staring down the barrel, and as all champions do, they trusted their systems to get themselves out of trouble.
That, and one of the great individual performance from Giacomo Allaria, who scored two tries and created another to edge Brianza to a dramatic victory.
And so it went. 5-4, the final scoreline. A bitter pill to swallow for the Scambio, who had produced a scintillating first-half display, a display worthy of any final against any opposition.
It’s there in all it’s glory on Youtube, for anyone who cares to watch. If you're a curious young player looking to learn the game, you could do worse than to observe the key moments in an enthralling contest.
Note the remarkable defence by Tiago on 7:22:35, the first real sign that we were up to the challenge.
Note the reaction of Dijana, Narjies, Dan and Chicca on the sidelines as Chiara followed it up with some brilliant defence of her own seconds later.
And then exactly one minute later, on 7:23:40, that sublime moment of indescribable beauty as Rana jinked and weaved his way through the cover defence and laid the ball on superbly for his midfield partner Jeremy to pounce for the opening try.
What a moment! What a brilliant, brilliant combination of players.
If ever a team was energised by a try, it was this one. Note the speed of which Ilaria and others comes running towards the box in the immediate aftermath!
And watch on further to witness the outstanding defensive set that followed as Brianza struggled to cope with the high-octane efforts of Giulio and his links.
1 minutes later, and the second try followed. A smooth sub transition saw the Scambio go from defence into attack, and having almost put Ilaria through a gap, the dynamic duo of Rana and Jeremy went at it again, terrorising the Brianza midfield and creating the space for Chiara Konishi, the safest pair of hands in the business. Needless to say, she scored with aplomb!
2-0 became 2-1 as Brianza replied with one of their one. And then came the moment of the match, perhaps the moment of the season. 7:29:20. It read like a biblical citation. It felt like one, too.
Again, Rana and Jeremy were at the heart of it, accompanied this time by Charlie, who finished a rehearsed move with a brilliant overs line to steal home between the wing and the link for a sensational try.
The scenes on the side-line are a thing to behold. Dan, DJ, Pàdraig and Filippo. All ecstatic with joy.
At the interval, the Scambio led 3-1, and although Brianza struck first blood in the 2nd half, it wasn’t long before the terrible twins were at it again.
An inversion of the first try, at 7:34:40, Jeremy this time plays provider with a textbook scoop, and Rana adds the finish with a typically nonchalant finish to see us 4-2 up.
The high-water mark of the Scambio season. If only the referee could have signalled full-time there and then. If only …
Try as they might, the onfield players never really fired a shot from there on, and the match slipped away from them.
Sometimes sport is like that. It can be very cruel. There is an ebb and flow of energy, and when things aren’t going your way, your legs start to feel that bit heavier as doubt creeps into the collective mindset.
Brianza still had to dig deep for their victory, deeper perhaps than they have ever had to dig before. But that was of little consolation for this ambitious group of players.
Brianza's standing in the game speaks for itself. They were worthy champions by the end of it all. But they were there for the taking in this one. Each and every one of us knew that we had left them off the hook.
As down as everyone felt, we still had to pick ourselves up for the 3rd place playoff against familiar rivals Treviso Knights, they themselves on a low ebb after a painful drop-off exit in the other semi-final.
In the history of sport, has anyone ever much wanted to play a 3rd place playoff match?
The feeling of losing a semi-final is a dreadful one, and motivation is hard to come by when you had your eyes on a final.
After the emotional highs and lows of Brianza, the fear was that we might let ourselves down in this one against a Knights team capable of inflicting considerable damage.
That we came out of it with a drop-off victory was testament to the character of this incredible team.
The performance wasn’t perfect, but the players did what they had to do to get us over the line.
Pàdraig and Filippo, in particular, were immense, helping themselves to a try apiece as we traded blows with Treviso in a tense second half.
Neither player had played the semi-final against Brianza and it spoke volumes of their moral fortitude that they were the ones to come up with the goods when we really needed it.
Filippo’s try on 10.40.55 was an exceptional finish, doing exactly what a link should be doing in that position.
Pàdraig, on the other hand, has mastred the art of doing things he shouldn’t, and he wasn’t going to stop on his final outing for the Scambio.
It was only fitting that his try on 10.46.25 was somewhat unconventional in its design. But all credit to him for backing his speed and seizing the moment when it presented itself.
He is a tremendous athlete, and will be missed now that he has departed.
The other try came from Tiago, who also showed remarkable athleticism to deceive the retreating Knights midfield pair on 10:39:25 , who are renowned for their power and speed.
The way Tiago handled them in defence was equally impressive, and he capped off a complete captain’s display by scoring the first try in a tense drop-off.
Somewhat appropriately, however, the final word was reserved for Jeremy, a player that has incapsulated everything good about the Scambio for almost a decade.
His intercept try on 11.02.38 sealed the deal, and after the pain and dejection everyone had felt some hours earlier, the smiles began to reappear on people’s faces as the achievement of finishing third sank in.
The ‘21/’22 season has been a remarkable one.
It started out with the arrival of an instantly likeable Spanish character named Alvaro, and was followed 6 weeks later by feelings of heartbreak when the same Spaniard announced he had to leave.
Such is the way with the Scambio.
Soon after, DJ left to go back to Holland, but not without scoring her first and only try, against Brianza, in Modena.
Their were other firsts, too. The Scambio hosted its first ever tournament on a beautiful Autumn’s day in early November. It made it’s first trip to Napoli. It made it’s first trip to France.
Rana, after a potentially career changing injury, took his first steps back on the pitch. And then he left, for Germany, the revolving Scambio doors spinning all the while.
We lost Leo to injury, Alessia and Renan to Erasmus, Shadi to a better offer abroad and Giulio M to a chainsaw accident!
With the finals approaching, we would lose stalwarths Dijana and Chicca, a double-whammy that most sides would struggle to come back from as the season edged towards its conclusion.
Luckily, we think we’ve picked up some good ones along the way as well. Chiara S, for one. Hard to imagine that she had only been playing for 6 months prior to the finals.
And what about Samu, Carlo Zampieri, Marco, Giulio, Giovanni, Jessica, Narjies, Ana and Danya?
Bright young things one and all. They carry the hopes of the Scambio as the sun sets on a glorious season and prepares to rise on another.
It won’t be easy, for there are some big shirts to fill with even more sad goodbyes to come.
To Giulio Cararro, thank you for your infectious enthusiasm and commitment.
To Joaquin, thank you for your intense loyalty.
To Dan, thank you for your warmth and friendship.
To Francesco, thank you for your decency off the pitch and your killer instinct on it (and congratulations on your wedding which I think we all forgot to say).
To Pàdraig, thank you for being the best there is.
Wherever they all end up in this world, we hope they know they will always be Scambisti for us, forever welcome “home”.
Same for Chicca, on your travels, same for Shadi on yours. Hell, same for Alvaro!
On the field of play, we weren’t quite the best, but we gave it absolutely EVERYTHING we had all season long, right up to and including that never-to-be-forgotten battle against Brianza.
And maybe, on this occasion, that was even more important than winning.
(We can always do that next year!)