As a preamble to the European Club Championships this coming weekend, Saturday’s Italia Touch Tournament provided the perfect occasion for the Scambio to get some much-needed game-time into its player.
That the tournament took place in Padova made it all the better, allowing the coaching staff the luxury of fielding two teams for its home tournament.
On one team-sheet, therefore, a collection of familiar faces roughly akin to the travelling party which will touch down in Alicante this Friday night for a two-day bonanza of touch in the company of Europe’s finest.
On the other, a less familiar line-up featuring ten players making their Italia Touch debuts, many of whom had less than a month’s training behind them come kick-off at Valsugana rugby club.
And what a baptism of fire they were dealt, with perennial champions Brianza - locked and loaded with all their biggest names - first up on the morning schedule.
In the end, the scoreline got away from the Scambio ‘Development’ team as the Milanese heavyweights flexed their muscles to pull away in the second half.
But for much of the game Brianza were forced to dig deep as the newcomers rattled their cage with an outstanding display relative to their collective lack of experience.
Playing together for the first time ever, the midfield quartet of Wilhelm, Andrew, Samu and Zamps went from strength to strength thereafter, laying the foundations for some fine team performances.
Beside them, links Shadi, Renan and Chiara Suriani were to the attacking fore in remarkable back-to-back victories over both Dolce and the Barbarians.
On the other side, it was testament to the unyielding piston defence by Giovanni and Amine that their try-line wasn’t troubled more.
The 4 A’s - Alessia, Arianna, Ana and Anna - also played their part out on the wings, especially in defence.
Norwegian Anna eventually finished the day playing as link, with Giovanni switching to mid as injuries took their tool ahead of their decisive final match against Mezzi & Mezzi.
Undeterred, the make-shift assortment battled to the end, and won themselves many new admirers in the process.
By the conclusion of the day the totemic figure of Wilhelm, also Norwegian, had received the joint-top amount of votes for MVY (most valuable player) of the tournament.
If there had been an award for try-of-the-tournament, meanwhile, it would probably have gone to Shadi having dummied her way over the whitewash on a fantastic overs line off the back of a pin-point bullet pass from Andrew.
And what of Andrew? Former rugby players normally take some time to adjust to the complexities of touch, but not this Glaswegian. Of the many tricks he pulled out, his hat-trick of tries against Dolce will live longest in the memory.
So too some of the scores recorded by the first Scambio team, who played with a heavy weight of expectation on their shoulders as they attempted to defend the crown they picked up in last season’s corresponding fixture.
It wasn’t quite to be on this occasion after coming a cropper to a red-hot Orange team who dazzled in a semi-final encounter which they deservedly won 5-3.
Spirits were a little low after that one, but how well the troops rallied to battle back and take third place with a superb 5-1 victory over a Verona side currently ranked 2nd in Italy.
This was a victory born out of defence, with the 4 C’s - Charlie, Carlo, Clara, Chiara C - all very much to the fore.
That Verona win - combined with a 6-0 victory over the Treviso Knights in the pool stages - made for a thoroughly satisfactory report-card when it was all over, especially considering some of the changes between Scambio teams of the past and this one.
Still bedding his way into the team, Ian (another Glaswegian) showed many glimpse of his pedigree with some beautiful try assists.
There were, in fact, many eye-catching scores to decorate the occasion, most notably Dijana’s try against the Orange after a superb overs by Filippo, and Ilaria’s forever-to-be-remembered rattle-snake (her words!) against Verona.
In the same game, Micha scored a tyically German try in the corner to settle the contest.
Earlier, Fede scored a cracking back-door against Dolcè, whilst Tiago claimed a memorable touchdown against the Knights following on from a trademark scoop by Rana.
That try, unfortunately, cost Tiago his shirt, a direct result of some shameful foul-play in a match that was dominated by ugly scenes, an occurrence all too familiar when certain teams take to the field.
It was credit to the Scambio contingent that they kept their heads while their opponents were busy losing theirs.
One would like to see harsher penalties handed out to teams and individuals who continue to bring the game into disrepute by employing fowl tactics and harassing referees.
Speaking of refs, it was a big day for our man-in-the-middle, Giulio Mazzega, who earned his L1 badge having been examined by the refereeing board, a fitting way to say goodbye to his twenties (and his youth!)
Beside him, Chiara Konishi also left an impression with a fine refereeing display of her own. Good on her for agreeing to volunteer when it became apparent that her finger injury would not heal in time.
And good on all the volunteers for making this annual tournament in Padova one of the most enjoyable of any in Italy.
From Ahmed on the DJ set to Jose keeping the scores, this was a team-effort in more ways than one.
A big thank you to Danmeng, Pramod, Clare, Alberto, Eirin, Narjies and Giulio Ferialdi for their stellar work behind the scenes to make it happen.
Most of all, however, thank you to Ilaria and Marco for the days, weeks and months of work they put into organising this wonderful event.
It was, as it so often is, a proud day to be involved with this group.
Now, where’s that Spanish phrasebook … ?
Keeping Padova in Touch - November 2022
SCAMBIO: Tiago (capt), Charlie, Rana, Ian T; Fede, Carlo P, Filippo; Chiara C, Dijana, Ilaria, Micha, Clara.
SCAMBIO DEVELOPMENT: Wilhelm, Andrew, Carlo Z, Samuele; Amine, Giovanni; Shadi (capt), Chiara S, Renan; Alessia, Anna, Ana, Arianna.