And so it finally happened. After years and years of knocking at the door, the Scambio finally reached the number #1 spot in the Italian national rankings courtesy of a hard-earned tournament victory in Napoli.
A triumph of perseverance, one could say. Resourcefulness too. We weren’t quite firing on all cylinders in Bagnoli, but in keeping with much of our efforts both on and off the field over the last decade, we found a way to soldier on when the going got tough.
Unconvincing in our four group matches against Bersaglieri, Dragoni, Turtlein and Mezzi & Mezzi, we limped into a semi-final showdown against a Verona side who had put us out to pasture just seven days earlier in Varese.
On this this occasion, however, we were up to the challenge.
In a match of enormous intensity, no quarter was asked, and none was given. A point epitomized by wingers Eirin and Renan who both played as if their lives depended on the result.
Eirin, on one side, was a stalwart in defence, throwing herself repeatedly at the oncoming attack to somehow keep our try-line intact when the dam seemed certain to break.
Focussed, committed and brave, this was a masterclass in defence, the likes of which have rarely been seen in Italia Touch.
On the other side, the equally committed Renan was also performing heroics, plucking impossible passes out of the sky and diving fearlessly between defenders. The galvanising effect that this had on the rest of the team was immeasurable.
Unfortunately for Renan, her courage would also prove her downfall, collapsing on her way off the pitch after being badly winded in her efforts to ground the ball.
It was that kind of match, and she wasn’t the only one to depart in agony.
On the Verona side, star player Manuela cut a forlorn figure as she was carried off with a very serious Achilles injury. We wish her nothing but the best in her recovery.
Verona and us have become fierce competitors on the pitch, but we have great respect for our provincial rivals, and for Manu in particular. She is a class act in every respect, and the Italian Championship will be a significantly poorer affair for her absence.
Verona did well to regroup following her departure, but we held our composure to sneak home by the narrowest of margins to set up a final showdown against our other Veneto neighbours, Orange.
Motivation was never going to be a problem in this one. Afterall, it was the Belluno outfit that had knocked us out of our own home tournament some 4 months earlier with a typical smash-and-grab victory in Padova.
On paper, they were perhaps a little under-powered for this one with some of their hot steppers unable to make the journey. But nevertheless, they represented a dangerous opposition, and we needed to step up a gear if we were ging to oust them.
Thankfully, we did just that, with our mids in particular flexing their muscles at exactly the right time.
With Charlie and Rana imperious in attack, we raced into a 3-0 lead, and from there on it was a case of cruise control.
4-1 the final score, and a notable sense of satisfaction amongst a bruised but proud set of players.
Despite the difficulties earlier on, the day as a whole had been a success, with several notable performances.
Giulio Carraro, on a rare return visit from Bulgaria, looked a lot like his own self, giving a calm and assured performance in midfield.
Beside him, both Giulio Mazzega and Filippo had their best tournaments in a while, easing concerns amid a raft of injuries at link.
The Norwegian duo of Anna and Wilhelm continued their progression towards excellence, whilst Shadi, Ian T, Chiara C and Chiara S all impressed with their versatility.
The other Chiara (K), meanwhile, gave a timely reminder of her class with some superb tries, despite playing with a broken finger throughout.
To come away from Napoli with yet another trophy (plate in this case) was a fine reward for the 14 players who made the journey south.
The added decoration of taking top spot in the rankings, meanwhile, was an honour that went far beyond the 14 players that played.
It was an accolade to every player that ever contributed to the Scambio cause since its inception many moons ago.
To players that unselfishly volunteer to referee (Dijana in Napoli) to the players that give up their time behind the scenes to make sure that everything functions smoothly.
From the project writers, the logistics team, the medical team, the events team, the social media team and the board, right down to anyone who has ever picked up a cone or washed a bib.
Top spot is a recognition of their efforts as much as anything else.
And while maintaining pole position promises to be an even more arduous task, we welcome the challenge as the business end of the season now begins to veer into focus.