Though forecasters predicted storms for the evening, the sun was bright over the Alexandre Cueille Stadium in Tulle ahead of Sarlat Rugby’s greatest challenge yet. The reserve teams of Sarlat Rugby and their hosts, SC Tulle Corrèze, warmed up for what would be a stunningly close game. While the A team seemed off to a very different start, with Sarlat taking an early lead, it was neck and neck by the end of the second half.
Sarlat’s third, if narrow, win means the ambitious team is ending the first set of games at the top of their bracket. Their results and effectiveness so far have certainly solidified their status as a front runner, but the games against Tulle Corrèze revealed there is still room for improvement.
SC Tulle Corrèze and Sarlat Rugby’s B Teams Vie for Action-Packed Victory.
While Sarlat Rugby’s B team has been a force to be reckoned with in previous games, Tulle’s reserves were young, energetic, and wasted no time showing their potential. When one of Sarlat’s players failed to release the ball in the first minute, Tulle’s #15, Maxime Maugein, scored the penalty to open the score for the home team. 3 – 0.
Not to be outdone, Sarlat Rugby tried to even the score 3 minutes later but saw their shot bounce off a post. Nevertheless, they seized possession before Tulle could gain ground and scored, then transformed, a try in the far corner.
Tulle’s play was active and aggressive; Sarlat Rugby’s a bit sloppier than fans had come to expect. The locals took full advantage to score two more penalties in 10 minutes. 9 – 7. However, the home team’s aggression may have cost them, earning them a yellow card 16 minutes in.
The yellow card left them short-handed, unable to stop Sarlat Rugby’s increasingly distinctive maul from scoring a second collective try, which was also confirmed. While the Perigord team lost a few more opportunities to fumbles, #9, Matt Doyle, managed to sprint one in just before the 30-minute mark, though the post claimed the conversion. Another offside by Sarlat earned Tulle a fourth penalty to end the first half. 12 – 19.
Sarlat’s narrow lead did not last long in the second half, however. Some strong line out play and an opening in the Blue and Black’s defense let the home team score and convert a try just minutes into play.
With the game heating up, an interception by Sarlat Rugby #17 Paulin Pezet won the visitors a try (converted), even as the light was starting to fade. Then, after a penalty by Tulle, and a yellow card for the visitors, the local team scored a second try, which they converted for the lead, 29 – 26.
With 20 minutes left on the clock, both teams struggled to retain or gain the lead. Sarlat’s B team had trouble gaining ground against a determined home team and, when they did, opportunities were often cut short by missed passes or faults. Nevertheless, they kept trying and, minutes from the end, #18 Cyril Carriere pulled off an incredible sprint down the field to put Sarlat back in the lead with the conversion by #20, Jarod Millet.
With minutes left, SC Tulle Corrèze’s Blue and White threw everything they had at Sarlat’s defense. However, the Blue and Black players pulled themselves together and let nothing through, ending the game 29 – 33.
Sarlat Rugby’s A Team Takes the Lead in Dark and Sombre First Half
The sun was all but gone by the time the A teams took to the pitch—a situation not helped by technical difficulties which left half the lights off. After a minute of silence for a recently departed emblematic figure from the SC Tulle Corrèze club, the game started.
From the first whistle, Tulle put the pressure on the visiting team, determined to take them down. It seemed to be working too, with the Blue and Black visitors showing an uncharacteristic lack of discipline. This led to several missed opportunities and a penalty, which Tulle seized to open the score 0 – 3 after 8 minutes of play.
Five minutes later, in a repeat of the earlier game, Sarlat Rugby’s #10, Serafin Bordoli, pierced the SC Tulle Corrèze defense and passed the ball to #14 (Vincent Pageneau) who scored the try. Bordoli converted it to put the visitors back in the lead. Unlike the B game, however, Sarlat Rugby kept up the momentum and pressure, again led by Bordoli, who made a quick pass to #12, Hemani Paea, for a second try. After Bordoli converted, putting Sarlat Rugby ahead by a wide margin, Tulle scored their own penalty, narrowing the score 6 – 14 with nearly 20 minutes remaining in the first half.
Unfortunately, they were not the most exciting 20 minutes, despite the lightning reminding everyone a storm was on its way. With momentum on both sides lost to turnovers and two missed penalties, 15 minutes passed before Sarlat could finally nail a penalty. While the score (6 -17) was a strong lead for the visitors going into halftime, the final few minutes did not bode well. With 3 minutes left, they lost the chance at another try because of a forward pass. Then, just before the whistle blew, Maxime Fontenay (#6) was given a yellow card.
SC Tulle Corrèze Punches Back in Second Half
With the lights back on, the second half seemed to start well for Sarlat, with Bordoli managing another breakthrough (even if it didn’t score). However, things soured quickly as a fight broke out, earning two red cards for SC Tulle, and one for Sarlat Rugby #7, Nicolas Gal. This put both teams down two players until Maxime Fontenay returned 10 minutes into play. Nevertheless, the visitors scored another penalty, further anchoring Sarlat Rugby’s lead 6 – 20.
SC Tulle Corrèze redoubled their efforts. With the visiting team seeming to have lost some of its steam and cohesion, it was now the home team pulling out all the stops. Both teams were doing a lot of kicking, trying to gain ground, and the crucial line-out positions needed to score. When an overzealous local got taken off 20 minutes in with a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Sarlat’s #11, Lucas Caneda, one might have thought them defeated. But they did not stop trying.
Intercepting a pass between SR players, Tulle managed to score a try, and convert it, building momentum of their own. At 13 – 20 and within striking distance of Sarlat Rugby’s score, SC Tulle Corrèze seized every chance they could. Unfortunately, the visiting team gave them plenty, with #18 Mike Maniulua had to leave after a yellow card, and penalty after penalty kept giving the home team chances. Nevertheless, Sarlat refused to let them get a second try and, two minutes from the end, the home team finally took the goal kick to guarantee the defensive bonus point. Minutes later, just before the huge storm broke, the game ended 16 – 20.
It was a very close call for Sarlat Rugby, who nearly saw their winning streak broken, as it was for SC Tulle Corrèze, who almost brought down the “giant” of the bracket. If Sarlat coach Stephane Labrousse is pleased with the 3/3 victories for both A and B teams this first bloc, he was clear that “we will need to work on discipline, which started to fail us at the end of the game,” though he did mention that “we will also gain experience for the rest of the competition from this kind of match.”. He was, however, proud that Sarlat was able to beat Tulle at home, where they have been undefeated for 3 years. Clearly, there is still room for improvement, but if Sarlat Rugby continues to perfect their game, they will be hard to stop indeed.
Nevertheless, with next week to rest and recover, the team can be proud that they remain undefeated at the top of their bracket after three games. They are tied in points with Rochefort, who beat SC Surgèrien in their derby on Sunday, and only one point ahead of Bergerac. As the only other teams to have gone undefeated this bloc, they will certainly be tough opponents for Sarlat Rugby.