Crowds were slow to show up to the Christian Goumondie Stadium this Sunday for the opening game between the B teams of Sarlat Rugby and Barbezieux-Jonzac (UBJ). A rainy Saturday and overcast skies cast doubt on the weather, and a defeat against local rivals at Belves cast doubts on the home team.
But the sun came through just as the teams were warming up: an ideal environment for the game. The pressure was on for the home team to deliver for their fans. And they did. Opening the score for Sarlat Rugby, Mael Louradour nailed the penalty for the first three points. 3-0 for Sarlat, a promising start.
Yet UBJ were not going to roll over for Sarlat Rugby either: they put up a fine and fierce opposition, scoring a series of four penalties over the course of the first half. Though not once did they manage to get past Sarlat Rugby’s determined defence before the half time. Intense struggles for control of the game left both teams hungry for more as their scores crept up, staying within a few points of each other at all times.
Sarlat Rugby, however, were able to pull ahead when Tom Pintat-Tourret dodged two UBJ defenders after a quick pass to score a try for the home team. The audience cheered, though they missed the conversion, keeping the score tight. By the half-time whistle, the score sat at 14-12; Sarlat held onto their lead, but the game was far from over.
The second half arrived with still larger crowds, as more and more local fans showed up in anticipation of the A team game later that afternoon. The teams came together with renewed vigor and determination, keeping the scores stable, though UBJ managed to pick up 3 points off a penalty.
Sarlat Rugby surged back into the lead with their second try of the game, evidence of their powerful forward line up and their endurance. This time it was Xavier Padilla who put on a burst of speed after the whole team worked to get him the ball. Another missed conversion, however, meant that the lead was a narrow 19-15 for the home team, with not much time left on the clock.
The game seemed like it might end with a victory for Sarlat Rugby, but the UBJ players finally broke through the home team’s defence to score a try of their own. They pulled off the conversion, not a surprise given their strong kicking game, bringing the score to 19-22.
Despite their best efforts, the home team were unable to score again in the time remaining, needing a try to seize the lead. They gave it all they had in a show of willpower and team spirit that their previous game had only hinted at, yet were unable to close the gap before the final whistle.
Despite having their victory taken away in the final moments, Sarlat Rugby’s players congratulate themselves and their opponents on a game well played, and admirable sportsmanship. When one of the boys in blue and black went down, it was a UBJ player who helped him recover; just one example of the spirit of camaraderie and friendly, if intense, competition on display.
Their coaches noted improvements in the team’s coordination and spirit, especially the forwards who showed enduring strength and determination from start to finish. They also pointed out areas for improvement. The transitions from forwards to backs, whose potential was underutilised during the game, will be a key area to focus on in practice.
Small details like polish on the line-out remain something to work on as well. Though it looks like they will have an extra week to work on them, as the game against Vezere scheduled for this Saturday is likely to be cancelled. Stay tuned to the website and social media for more updates.
The team left the pitch confident that they had shown the audience and home team fans strong evidence of their potential, and showed each other a renewed sense of teamwork and determination. We look forward to watching the team continue to grow into its potential now that they stand strong together.