Eight years after he tried to help start the first senior rugby league team in Brasil, prop Caio Ozzioli finally scored himself a premiership as São Paulo Raiders beat reigning champs Urutau 21-16 in the 2021 men’s grand final.
Now aged 34, Ozzioli was previously one of the youngest members of the seminal Capital Rugby League which attempted to kickstart the code in São Paulo city (population 22 million) in 2013.
Wearing the same red-and-black colours as the present-day Raiders have adopted, the Capital Rugby League squad trained for roughly a year but could not find any opposition within travelling distance.
After disbanding, it was several years until pioneering administrator Hugo Fróes was able to negotiate a national competition for Brasil, bringing several disparate regions together.
The week-to-week feats of Brasil’s domestic officials were demonstrated by this year’s grand final, where two of the closest teams qualified for the decider, separated by a ‘mere’ six-hour drive.
In a third-place playoff on the same day, Maringá travelled for 10 hours to play Taubaté, rewarded for their effort with a 44-16 victory.
Urutau entered the main game having lost just one game since 2018, but São Paulo had a similarly impressive record – unbeaten in both 9-a-side and 13-a-side games in 2021 in what was effectively their first season.
As expected, the trophy was hotly contested, with artful five-eighth Vinicius Hideo potting a rare first half field goal as Raiders took a slender 11-6 advantage into the break.
Both Alcino Amato and Rogério Simões notched doubles for São Paulo, interesting for the fact that Simões was raised in opposition territory in the state of Paraná, roughly 15km from Urutau’s home field.
Whether tactical or otherwise, word spread the day before the grand final that Urutau would not have its linchpin members – the four Domingues brothers – due to competing sports commitments.
Yet the quartet all travelled for the big day, with Lucas Domingues among the tryscorers for the Screaming Owls, along with hooker Jeferson Azevedo and interchange player Luiz Bussolo.
Aside from the performances of the players, a huge credit must be given to the referee and touch judges on the day.
Taubate native Daniel Chiovetti has come ahead in leaps and bounds in the space of 12 months, becoming the first Brazilian-born person to referee the men’s grand final, with female Nicolli Carmona also creating history in running the line after an 800km journey to officiate.
Two other female officials – Dani Lanfredi and Dayane Santos – were also involved in the third-place playoff, along with young up-and-comer Brendon Saimon.
Amazingly, in addition to organising the day, Brasil Rugby League chief executive Hugo Fróes was a touch judge for the grand final, and central referee for the third-place playoff.
Earlier this year Melina romped to the Brasil women’s premiership with a 50-4 win against Vitória in their grand final.
BRASIL MEN’S GRAND FINAL
São Paulo Raiders 21 (Alcino Amato 2, Rogerio 2 tries; Vinicius Hideo 2 goals; Vinicius Hideo field goal) d Urutau 16 (Jeferson Azevedo, Lucas Domingues, Luiz Bussolo tries; Murillo Manzutti 2 goals) at Taubaté.
Referee: Daniel Chiovetti. Touch Judges: Niccoli Carmona / Hugo Fróes. Fourth Official: Dani Lanfredi. Game Day Manager: Gilberto Fróes.
THIRD PLACE PLAYOFF
Maringa Hawks 44 d Taubate 16 at Taubaté
Referee: Hugo Fróes. Touch Judges: Dani Lanfredi / Brendon Saimon. Fourth Official: Dayane Santos. Game Day Manager: Gilberto Fróes.