Crucial win for Innsbruck as they head into winter break
Innsbruck returned to the top of the Austrian Bundesliga table on Saturday having completed their set of pre-Christmas games with a convincing 8:69 away victory over Linz.
Innsbruck had won their only previous away match this term, against Stade, and that stood them in good stead during a tight opening 40 minutes. Linz took the lead with an early penalty from their first attack, and when Innsbruck missed the first 3 attempts at goal, there was a need for the hard work of the Innsbruck pack to be rewarded by points on the board. Fortunately, Innsbruck centre De Jean De La Batie obliged to level the match at three all after 15 minutes.
From there, Innsbruck edged into the lead after Linz lost a man to the sin bin for continuous offside infringements. Sensing an opportunity, Innsbruck kicked to the corner and a lineout drive brought them to the Linz line for scrum half Gobetti to dive over for the score. Innsbruck 10 MJ Sartori added a tricky conversion to push the visitors 3.10 in front.
Innsbruck spent much of the opening half defending, and Linz had a number of sorties into the Innsbruck 22 repelled by desperate tackling. After a series of drives close to the Innsbruck line, Linz turned the ball over and the relieving kick brought with it a growing sense of belief from RCI. They had survived similar onslaughts in Vienna against Stade, and now the momentum was firmly back with them.
Soon afterwards, hard forward driving laid the platform for RCI to exploit an overlap out wide, and a quick recycle gave De Jean De La Batie the chance to sell a dummy and back himself to the line. Half time Linz 3.15 RCI.
Innsbruck Coach Trojer was not happy with the defensive line and stressed that RCI were ahead, but were not necessarily playing well. Linz would surely throw everything at RCI in an attempt to get back into the match. The opening 10 minutes of the second half would prove crucial, but it saw Innsbruck put the game to bed rather than a comeback from the home side.
All in all, Innsbruck scored 7 second half tries through Max Muller, Gobetti, Simbruner, De Jean, Kolb and Kegler (2). De La Batie ended the match with a personal 27 point haul, but the Man of the Match for Innsbruck was Number 8 Lukas Kegler, who matched his hard rucking and tackling work with dynamic ball carrying and offloading, most notably a 50 metre run and inside pass for wing Simbruner to go over under the posts.
The challenge for Trojer and Innsbruck in the off-season is to develop more game-breaking play from the backs and to increase the aggressiveness and organization of the side’s defense.
Coach Trojer “This game was never going to be easy. The narrow pitch meant it was not going to be a day of running rugby, it would be more a hard forwards battle. The winner would be decided by who adapted their gameplan the quickest to that reality. I thought we didn’t tackle as well as we could, and the Linz try we conceded was a perfect example of that, but overall we have to be pleased with such a big victory”.
Captain Stephen Neill was also satisfied with the result, his first Bundesliga victory as skipper. “Looking at the league table, it is so tight that a win by any margin here was crucial. The first half was a bit of a struggle to find our rhythm, and credit to Linz for that, but I think our determination showed in those opening 20 minutes of the second half when we killed the game off. It is a great sign for our club that the guys coming off the bench really brought something extra to the team and the standard and intensity remained high to the final whistle even though the match was won.“
With 2 home defeats from 3 games, RCI’s away form has come to their rescue this year, winning both away matches in an exciting if unpredictable season so far.
By Stephen Neill