Aggiornamento: 20 mar
It’s only appropriate to start off this post by mentioning the team behind this tournament, as without their work there none of this would have been possible.
The sheer amount of organisation that goes into making an event like this run smoothly is difficult to appreciate without experiencing it for yourself. Particularly when you understand that those who have decided to take on this task are doing so as volunteers and in their own time, usually after (or before) work.
There are far too many people to name individually, but a special mention should go to Pàdraig, who is now adored from Napoli to Torino and beyond, and the Scambio Logistics team for their outstanding contribution.
All the volunteers, from the cameramen and women to the scheduling team to the medical staff and everyone in between, were exceptional and deserve significant recognition for pulling off a day like that in such style.
The Scambio is so much more than a touch rugby team and the strength and depth of those behind the scenes is a clear demonstration of what this group can do when it comes together as one.
Another true mark of the growth and potential of this group is the ability to field not just one but two strong teams at tournaments. This enables new and experienced players to work together and truly understand what it’s like to compete against the best teams in Italy.
The Scambio Barbarians was composed of predominantly newer players to the ranking scene. However, lead by the captain of captains Micha ‘German Fun’ Brandl and backed up some serious fire power in the form of winger Chiara K and the calm head of Carlo P, they were looking to bring down some of the bigger teams in what was a very challenging pool.
The damage they were inflicting became clear when, for the third time, I heard the unmistakable noise of Daniel slamming the ball down on the try line as he showed that being twice the size of a normal human should have no effect on one’s agility.
Watching from the side, it was great to see the new members like Marco and Samuele working to push teams like Verona to the limit from the get-go, as well as taking down teams which have been in the game for a while now.
The Scambio Barbarians qualified fourth in a tough group and went on to face Mezzi e Mezzi (Bassano) in the knock-out round where a solid performance resulted in a close win (4-2) and led to a rematch with their old foe Verona to round off the day.
In the other pool, Scambio A had one very clear mission.
I personally have been playing with the Scambio for seven years and hadn’t seen a team line-up like that for quite some time. Like a stupidly expensive cocktail concocted by master barman (and coach) Ian Bransfield, this team was a blend of some spectacular individual ingredients, mixed in such a way to produce a balanced, enticing, and highly potent result.
We didn’t play perfectly by any means, but when we made mistakes, our teammates were there in support every time and, as in any team sport, knowing that you can count on the player next to you is critical to success.
There is a certain satisfaction in watching a some of the best teams on the circuit throw their attack at you again and again and have it advance no more than a few metres, before a change of possession and the introduction of a fresh wave of dangerous players in attack just moments later.
Yet, there is a far greater sense of accomplishment that comes when, after years of training, strategizing and planning, things start to fall into place.
To be clear, this was by no means the first tournament that I, nor the Scambio, have won. However, since it was our home tournament, given the quality of the opposition, and the new tactics that had to be deployed, when the final whistle blew, it felt like something truly special.
A few of the newer players may be used to finishing in the top three or four in each tournament but, for the old guard especially, dismantling team after team with a kind of relentless hunger was a sight to behold.
Each try conceded was quickly forgotten as the silky hands of Francesco and Jeremy allowed the innocent-but-deadly Chiara(s) to score out wide.
Compounded by the borderline-psychotic performances from the guided-missile Tiago (captain) and human-touch-encyclopaedia Giulio C, there was a growing sense of inevitability as the storm brewed on the horizon for the final match.
Less than a month before, we had found ourselves in exactly the same situation. Same opposition, same stage of the competition, all or nothing.
The difference this time, however, was the result.
As the claxon sounded and the final whistle went, the largest group of Scambio players, supporters, friends, and family I have seen came together to celebrate the victory and the realisation of years of effort both on and off the pitch.
The ‘terzo tempo’ and following festivities were as good as they have ever been (a special thanks to the Valsugana Rugby staff) and, despite the heavens opening, the celebrations continued into the night.
The after-party was a chance to briefly revel in the knowledge that this team, mixed in both in age and gender, consisting of many different nationalities and various professions and backgrounds, has the potential to push even harder, to go even further than we thought.
However, with exactly three weeks left until the finals, our work is far from over as an even greater challenge now looms over us. Last week’s success becomes a mere platform upon which we must build in order to take that final step to, maybe…just maybe, become the number one team in Italy.