Spartans Catania will play XIII del Ducato in the Grand Final of the Italian Serie A championship in Rome next month, following the completion of the most extensive domestic season in Italy’s 60-year rugby league history.
The two teams won their respective zone championships, each of which included four teams playing on a home-and-away basis and will now have to wait until 27 August to decide the champions in the nation’s capital.
“I am very proud of what we have built,” said FIRL vice president Tiziano Franchini, who helped re-ignite Italian rugby league in the modern era. “This is the first, historic championship that combines north and south Italy, which is a major achievement. We are so pleased to have had such positive results.”
FIRL has been promoting and supporting the expansion into Sicily since early 2015, running coaching and match officiating camps regularly, before the Southern Zone was formally admitted into the FIRL general assembly last June. The Island also staged the recent Mediterranean Cup clash with the national side facing Lebanon.
Spartans were joined by Unione Rugby delle Aci (URA), which is in the process of becoming a dual-code rugby club, as well as Rectores and XIII Lovers Palermo.
“In Sicily we have worked so hard,” said Massimo Nicotra, the Spartans president. “With the help of committed colleagues we have managed to reach the final. There is great pride and a desire to establish ourselves in this sport.”
In northern Italy, it was a two-horse race with Ducato, four-time title winners from 2010-13, edging twice defending champions Brescia, both of whom finished the six-round competition on 10 points, which necessitated a play-off eliminator.
“Finally, after two seasons, we were able to return to winning ways and claim the championship of northern Italy,” said Fabio Berzieri, Ducato’s veteran captain. “The most positive thing, however, is that we were able to run a squad of 27 players and even set up an U18 team, which is so important looking to the future of the Italian rugby league movement. We will go to Rome with a great desire to give a good account of ourselves and we are determined to play as well as possible.”
Round 1: XIII Del Ducato 44-32 Piacenza Rugby; XIII Ghirlandina 20-78 Lions Brescia
Round 2: XIII Della Ghirlandina 38-18 XIII Del Ducato; Lions Brescia 20-0 Piacenza Rugby
Round 3: XIII Del Ducato 16-40 Lions Brescia; XIII Della Ghirlandina 26-12 Piacenza Rugby
Round 4: XIII Del Ducato 32-24 Piacenza Rugby; XIII Ghirlandina 16-34 Lions Brescia
Round 5: XIII Della Ghirlandina 32-46 XIII Del Ducato; Lions Brescia 62-28 Piacenza RugbyRound 6: XIII Del Ducato 18-12 Lions Brescia; XIII Della Ghirlandina 12-24 Piacenza Rugby 12 –24
Play-off eliminator XIII Del Ducato 50-24 Lions Brescia 50 – 24
Round 1: URA 14-26 Spartans; Rectores 28-20 XIII Lovers Palermo
Round 2: URA 12-22 Rectores; Spartans 28-12 XIII Lovers Palermo
Round 3: URA 24-32 XIII Lovers Palermo; Spartans 38-4 Rectores
Round 4: URA 12-24 Spartans; Rectores 10-46 XIII Lovers Palermo
Round 5: URA 48-10 Rectores; Spartans 38-16 XIII Lovers Palermo
Round 6: URA 6-30 XIII Lovers Palermo; Spartans 48-10 Rectores
FIRL will release details of its junior championship next week.