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Varese 2023 - Round-up

Another tournament and yet another cup to bring home to the overflowing trophy cabinet after the Scambio claimed 3rd place on the road in Varese in the first official ranking tournament of 2023 last weekend.

With a relatively inexperienced squad, the podium finish came as a satisfying result for the coaching staff who viewed the tournament as a stepping stone towards improvement rather than a straight shootout between fellow championship aspirants Brianza and Verona, who went on to contest the final.

In the end, the Scambio finished up with 5 victories out of 6 games played, bowing out 3-2 to Verona in a hotly contested semi-final.

Still smarting following a heavy defeat to the Scambio in Bassano last February, Verona weren’t lacking motivation for this one, and raced into a 3-0 lead with crucial tries either side of half time.

Despite the one-way traffic, however, our players dug deep to stay in the game and then came back strongly with two tries of their own, firstly through Tiago, and then through Anna.

Had the game last another minute or two, there was every chance that we would have went on to score another few and complete a memorable comeback.

It was a game of many ifs, it must be said. Anna had a perfectly good try ruled out when the scoreline still read 0-0, the referee somehow adjudicating that fellow Norwegian Wilhelm had passed after a touch had been made, despite the lack of any defender in his immediate vicinity.

There were a couple of other opportunities, also, were the final pass went to ground or the ball was dropped when we seemed odds-on to score.

That said, however, Verona were good value for their victory. They played with an intensity that forced us into making untypical mistakes, and were ruthless when presented with try-scoring opportunities, taking advantage of our defensive re-organisation when Ian Taylor was forced off with injury.

It was a shame that they weren’t able to reproduce the same level of intensity when they faced off against Brianza in the final, given the top ranked side in Italy were playing with only 6 players. The ease of which the Lombards strolled to victory provided plenty of food for thought on the long road home.

The team that eventually dethrones Bianza will need to be cold-blooded from start to finish, and can not afford to be spendthrift in attack, as we were at various times on Saturday.

Still, the only way to learn is to live, as they say, and in this regard we made plenty of forward strides over the day as a whole. Prior to the semi-final, we emerged for our group unbeaten with solid performances against Dragoni (5-1), Black Devils (7-2), Roma (5-0) and Venezia (4-0).

For Wilhelm, Carlo Z, Anna, Arianna, Margherita and Amine, this was their first time competing in a ranking tournament, and they all came out with credit in the bank, in particular Amine, who bounced back from a nervy start to score an absolute peach of a try against the Black Devils.

“I was really looking forward to this tournament to test all the skills I’d been practicing”, said the French Moroccan.
“Unfortunately, I had a rough start. I couldn’t get into the first game eventually was set aside by the coach. I needed to focus.
I knew I could do better, and was eager to prove myself. Luckily, I could count on the support of all my teammates who came by to support me and share precious advice.
Right at the start of the second game, I manipulated my defender wide, sprinted towards the try zone, and changed my trajectory right before receiving a perfectly timed pass from Tiago in the open space. All I had to do was dive and score. I was thrilled to help the team deepen the lead!
This try laid a strong foundation for the rest of the tournament where I felt much more confident in my ability.”

Amongst the other tries, Tiago had a couple of typical solo efforts whilst also setting up a beauty for Shadi. Clara, meanwhile, scored a good winger’s finish after the best long pass of the day, from Ian Taylor.

By far the best sight of the day, however, was that of Josè finally back on the pitch – albeit as a referee – just four months after breaking his leg in training. It’s been a long road for our Chilean champion, but finally there is some light at the end of the tunnel as winter turns to spring.

The immediate future is indeed bright. Roll on Napoli next week!

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