Four in the morning is an early start for anyone. Nevertheless, this was when, on Friday morning, the Zurich Lion stumbled out of bed to travel to Vienna, our first match in the afternoon.
It’s a funny thing, watching an end of season JV team from the side lines. You see the transformation they have made. Gone is the fear, either of getting hurt or hurting. Players who used to freeze in terror of a big tackle start taking on two or three opponents at a time. Though a comfortable JV victory, I unfortunately cannot write about the JV’s outstanding performance as I could only watch half the game. The remaining half was spent warming up, for Varsity’s last match of the season.
The familiar twisting of the stomach greets you when you line up against any team, the difference is what it does to you. Starting out, it’s a nervous panic, but for the assembled Varsity Lions, it had long since become the kick of adrenaline which powered the game.
The match kicked off. Though chased down by Zurich, Vienna retained possession, their powerful forwards meaning Zurich had to step up their game if they wished to retain (or regain) possession in the rucks.
The same was true of scrums. The powerful Viennese pack easily pushed Zurich back in the first few engagements of the afternoon, but Zurich soon adapted. Locks Joey Stack (’16) and Jannis Mossbacher (’17) stuck their studs firm into the ground and drove VIS back.
After some skilful goal-line defence, a penalty conceded on the 22-metre line was successfully kicked by Vienna’s fly-half, placed VIS ahead by three points to nothing with five minutes left of the first half. A following penalty was taken advantage of by Zurich was ZIS’s first try was scored by Captain Will Tengtio (’15).
Zurich conceded two further penalties against Vienna which were kicked for goal, fortunately for the Lions, both were missed. Another try was scored and on Friday evening the game ended with a 10-3 victory to Zurich.
After some well-earned rest, the Lions returned on Saturday morning for a rematch. The game started with Zurich’s First Fifteen, though at half-time, the starting seniors would be switched for next year’s starters to have a run, the seniors would return to the pitch in the final five minutes of play. Due to a prop injury on the Viennese varsity team, Zurich’s Koren Yidgar (’16) nobly donned a VIS shirt and played alongside the opposition.
Zurich played marvellously. Scrums were won, rucks were held and back line plays were expertly pulled off, allowing Alex Burnham (’16) to score after running almost the entire length of Vienna’s pitch. Back’s Captain Sam McGough (’15) kicked three conversions of four tries scored by Zurich, and the Lions, playing perfectly on form, finished the match without conceding a single point. The game ended with a 26-0 victory for Zurich.
Zurich was awarded the Zurich-Vienna Autumn Challenge Trophy for their efforts, and the players collectively belted out the team anthem Wonderwall in the olfactorily-offensive changing room. Before flying home to Zurich, the team headed to Finnegan’s Pub for a team lunch, as well as to watch England play the Springboks in the QBE Autumn Internationals.
In rugby, victory isn’t always about the score. Every position has their role, every player has a goal for the match. The centres want to get the scissors timed just right, the fly-half want’s that chip to go to hands, and the hooker wants to win a scrum against the head. Sometimes, in a game, each player meets these goals and a thing of beauty occurs. This was what happened at the weekend, the most fitting end to Zurich’s 2014 rugby season, setting the bar for ISSTs in March.