13pm. Glorious pitch next to Richmond. Birds singing. The XV de France smashed by the All Blacks just a few hours ago... but we didn’t care. It was our first league game of the season and we were hungry for some good ol’ rugby.
Despite some of our players running a bit tight on the clock (Rory, D*ck of the Day), 15 fired-up players, new and not-so-new alike, started the game on the right foot. For the first few minutes, there were some impressive line outs, well-supported scrummaging (special mention to Pierre Potier who stepped up at hooker), and a good transition in between the front pack and our line of backs. This paid off with a good run by Paul scoring the first try of the season for La Deux. Way to go!
Yet, we still had to swallow a few bitter pills in the minutes to come. First, we lost our captain Tangi after a very unfortunate tackle that brought him head down into the turf. Off he went to the hospital and not until a few hours later that he confirmed us that his neck was alright. Yet, the suffering wasn’t only Tangi’s, but the Bleus too. Our promising start faded rapidly when one of the Spartans’ solid back crossed our defence straight into touch. It was only one try but enough to crack our confidence. Probably because we lack hours of playing together; or certainly because we stopped communicating altogether, a Spartan blaze started playing us on the back foot with good kicking into our 22, decisive runs by the bulky locks and flankers, as not letting our scrum-half (Yves) and fly-half (Rémi) play at ease. All this together with poor tackling (technically and cojones-ally speaking) allowed the Spartans score twice before the end of the first half (I think...)
Fortunately for us, it wasn’t because we lack neither the talent, nor the hunger... but the conviction. With Paul O’Brien’s help –MAN OF THE MATCH- heads came up, our scrums improved despite not having experienced scrummager (thanks Greg, Benoit and Pierre once again!), we lowered our tackles and the handling got a bit better. Slowly but steadily, Yves managed to disentangle himself from the opposing number 9’s pressure so the Bleus could understood how important it is to have the possession of the ball. Our second-liners Carl and Jérome did some in-your-face Tuilagi-like charging with the ball, knocking up to 4 opponents down. Awesome. And for those who insist there’s always a price. This came with a brilliant try by Yves, enough to bring the whole team into the game again, going for the kill.
One silly yellow card on Jérome for repeatedly not releasing the player/ball when at the scrums, left us outnumbered. Yet the Spartans had no shield, nor sword big enough to contain the Frenchmen. Aymeric, our fullback did almost cross the line after a good combination of fast passes... but the ref called it a forward pass.
2 minutes to go; we tried; we fought hard... but it wasn’t enough. No victory this time, but a good wake-up call for those who played (and those who are willing to play for La Deux): if we keep on playing as we did in the second half, we will definitely go far this season. We’ll be back Spartans.
Special mention to all the new players! Well done guys!!