Sat 24.03.18, 15:00 h | Centre sportif des Cherpines, Plan-les-Ouates
First XV suffer narrow defeat to Geneva PLO
It was an early morning start for the Grasshoppers on this beautiful Saturday morning. The first official game of 2018 was going to take place within a few hours… Both Zurich teams were eager to shake off the cobwebs after this long winter break! The excitement of meeting up with our brothers in arms, finding that oh so familiar smell of deep heat in the changing rooms, warming up and heading to the battle field to feel the wind in our faces and bodies tensed, waiting for the first contact… Everyone was eager and looking forward to the amazing test, we know PLO always offer.
Sadly between getting up and thinking about all of this and arriving in Geneva, there is the seemingly never ending bus ride, where you can’t stretch properly, can’t find a comfy position and just feel like you energy is slowly being sucked from you…
Arriving in Geneva, shortly after 12:00, both teams headed to changing rooms to prepare for their games. The first team, were able to relax and mentally prepare for the 15:00 kick-off during a short warm up session. Allowing us to get into the right mindset and focus on the exciting challenge ahead. Alex had been preparing us for this game, one of the most important ones of the season…
After watching the first half of the second’s game, the first team headed towards the changing room to prepare! Silence reigned in the changing room, everyone was focused! The jerseys were handed out to the team and Zurich headed out to warm up!
Zurich won the toss and went for the kick, we wanted to play our style of rugby and it starts right from the kick-off. The whistle blew, Finn shot the ball into the air: the game had begun. The Zurich pack chased after the ball, led by Yared and Sylvain!
The Zurich team dominated most phases of the game for the first 15 minutes. Strong in the line outs with our giants Felix, Tim and Chris on both our own balls as well as on Geneva balls. The scrum held their own and offered a plat form for the backs. Defence was tight and the aggression was there! After a great set piece, the ball flowing from left to right and right to left, Tim, our impressive national team player, broke threw a tackle and scored in between the posts, letting Hugh, our other national team player, make an easy conversion. Zurich were up 0-7 after these 15 minutes of dominance.
PLO did not drop their heads; they came back, through their first centre who was not an easy man to tackle, who kept hitting the Zurich line. More pressure was applied on the Zurich backs and when trying to clear his line, Finn was countered and the PLO number 10, “Ouche” who traditionally plays on the wing chased and scored the first try from PLO. This was followed very shortly afterwards by another try, again from “Ouche” taking Geneva ahead on the scoreboard.
Our duo of centres, Jess and Radu, were doing a cracking job of hitting the line, defending and making a nuisance of themselves for Geneva. However, the men in yellow also had a few tricks up their sleeves and outstepped our defence once or twice (something that we really need to work on in training). Sadly Radu was caught by Geneva (at least five or six opposition players jumped him) and ended up finishing the afternoon in the emergency room of the local hospital. We know that Sylvain Hirsch, who trains with Zurich now, set him up by giving all of our calls to his team mates at PLO! Sylvain, you owe Radu a knee! Radu: we all wish you a speedy recovery!
Come half time, Zurich were leading 12-14 (both teams kicking require improvement, quite a few points were left on the field). Alex gathered his troops and made the necessary changes, injecting pace where it was required bringing on Diego at number 8 and Akim in the front row. We knew what the game plan was for the next 40 minutes.
Geneva as well changed their line-up, bringing on a very large and powerful second row, who caught us again missing tackles, breaking through at least 3 to dot the ball down behind the line. Geneva again took the lead.
Alex added fresh legs to the pitch; Norman fought his heart out and came out for a well-deserved break! Oli, after a great game also gave way to JB, Leo and Louis came on the wings and Ivan came of field after the hard fought battle.
The players from PLO had also bought in some weight and spent a fair amount of time in the Zurich 22m with some great phases, but the Zurich defence stood strong… Strong, until a player made it through a gap and scored the final try of the day for Geneva, a really well executed phase of play for Geneva!
Zurich did not give up and furiously attacked the line! Even though Zurich was behind, the win was only a few minutes away. The Zurich team hit the line repeatedly, until Tim made again a brake and dotted down over the line. Zurich were now, only three points behind with minutes remaining on the clock… The minutes were decreasing by the second, so our kicker (not to mention any names) decided, with Alex sprinting onto the pitch with the tee, to drop the transformation… Needless to say, as Creedy pointed out during our test game in Heidelberg, a drop is never an easy and the ball went wide.
Zurich hit off again and thanks to a penalty were able to glue Geneva back in their 22. Zurich had the choice: either the draw of the win. Playing the way that Alex is coaching us and the various scenarios that we have played, Zurich went for the win and a line out in the 22m. The ball was taken by Zurich in the air, came down and was met by a sturdy PLO defence… The ball died… Penalty again for Zurich, slightly left of the posts… A quick tap and go, stopped by the Geneva defence, then the final whistle from the referee, 25-22 to Geneva PLO.
A bitter aftertaste to what was a great game: congratulations to Geneva for their win! Back to training for the men in blue: improvements are required!
Thank you to the whole GC rugby team (and Jessy’s girl) for taking care of Flynn and Lilly who had an excellent day out down in sunny Geneva!
3 - Sylvain
2 - Tim
1 - Chris
Jaffa - Jess for the yellow card.
(Von: James Pickering)