After nearly a month without a game, Sarlat Rugby players and fans alike were eager to get back to their beloved sport. Nevertheless, the mood at the Christian Goumondie Stadium was dampened somewhat by the rain, and the last-minute cancellation of the reserve game by Saint Yrieix. It soured further when the home team stumbled somewhat in the first half of the game. But a decisive second-half left Sarlat unbeaten with an offensive bonus to boot.
Saint Yrieix Give Sarlat Rugby a Run for Their Money in the First Half
Sunday’s game started off on a somber note. Fans and players stood in silence to remember the passing of a dear colleague and friend. The rain lent its own shadow to the event, but could not entirely dampen everyone’s enthusiasm at being once again united around the oval ball.
The action began almost instantly as Sarlat recovered the ball and pushed up hard against the outside flank. Passing down the line with momentum Saint Yrieix seemed unprepared as Eroni Tuwai opened the score with a try less than three minutes in, 5-0 for Sarlat Rugby.
Despite this initial success, Sarlat Rugby seemed to falter shortly afterwards. On the home team’s next push, Saint Yrieix kicked the ball free and Sarlat missed the line out. Now on the defensive, Sarlat managed to hold on, but just barely against push after push by the hungry visitors, finally kicking free 10 minutes into the game.
Advances and kicks by both sides were spoiled by fumbles and interceptions, including a breathtaking back and forth 16 minutes in that led to audible gasps from the audience. After a solid reception, a Saint Yrieix full-back pierced Sarlat Rugby’s defenders, and they went back on the offensive. Their efforts paid off as, just before the 20-minute mark, they scored a try on the inside corner, tying up the score 5-5.
Tied for the first time in a long time, Sarlat Rugby players seemed absent, and the visitors could taste the upset in the air. Play slowed as the teams vied over the ball. Penalties, missed passes, and dropped balls cost the home team ground, though they seemed to have the upper hand in terms of possession. Thirty minutes in, Sarlat came bursting out the back of a scrum, and a quick pass from Theo Entraygues (#9) to Vincent Pageneau (#11) let them score another try. 10-5.
Going into halftime, the score stayed at 10-5 as Saint Yrieix took a penalty kick at the goal and missed. Nevertheless, despite being narrowly behind, Saint Yrieix’s players had an advantage going into the second half as Sarlat Rugby’s Remi Cardon got a yellow card moments before the whistle.
Sarlat Rugby Come Roaring Back in Action-Packed Second Half
After the presentation of new jerseys from Sarlat Rugby to the young players of the Entente Périgord-Noir/Quercy and the Rugby school, both teams returned to the pitch determined. Sarlat Rugby, now with the addition of wing Lucas Caneda, were determined to recover momentum and keep their unbeaten streak. Saint Yrieix, for their part, were eager to find more gaps in the home team defense and to be the first to beat the bracket leader.
Despite being down a player, Sarlat Rugby put Saint Yrieix on the defensive. A first push was held back on the edge of the try line, so when the home team next got a penalty, Theo Entraygues put it through the posts. Sensing a change in the air, or eager to bring one, Coach Stephane Labrousse started rotating in reserves just 7 minutes in, switching in Luciano Bencivenga and Dato Okriashvili.
With a spark reminiscent of their 2021 victories, Sarlat Rugby started to pick up the pace. A quick kick over the defenders by Roman Aleyrangues landed right in the arms of an accelerating Eroni Tuwai. He charged the ball home and scored his second try for Sarlat. Theo nailed the confirmation to bring the score to 20-5 — a more comfortable lead, but now Sarlat had the bit in their teeth.
A Yellow Card for the visitors left them down one player, fighting to stay in the game, and a pair of dropped receptions cost them dearly. A second yellow card 20 minutes into the half left them down two, and Sarlat Rugby were quick to take advantage. They moved the ball rapidly down to the flank where Serafin Bordoli found the try, 27 – 5 after Entraygues converted it (then left the pitch to cheers, replaced by the young Louis Boyer).
While Sarlat Rugby continued to surrender ground with penalties, Saint Yrieix seemed unable to capitalize and make progress. Just four minutes after their previous try, Sarlat found themselves in striking distance once again. For once, however, the line out transitioned smoothly into a maul, which in turn carried Luciano Bencivenga, with the ball, over the try line. 34-5 after a successful conversion by Roman Aleyrangues.
Saint Yrieix was not about to cave, however. With barely 10 minutes left, and almost 30 points down, they seemed to shake off the lull they were in and renewed their offensive pushes. However, despite their determination and a yellow card for Sarlat Rugby’s #19 Roman Carriere, the visitors were unable to score again before the end, thus allowing Sarlat Rugby to keep not just the victory, but the offensive bonus as well.
Perhaps not the smoothest way to start the year for the ambitious Blue and Black team, but, if 2022 goes the way of this game, they will certainly end it in style!