Despite the pouring rain, Sarlardais were already crowding into the stadium for the B team match between the Sarlat Rubgy and SC Surgérien reserves. Whether driven by the excitement of a home game after nearly a year, the stunning performance of the reserve team against Saint Yrieix last Sunday, or just a desire to see the entire new Blue and Black roster in action, seats were filling up. None left disappointed either.
With two victories and plenty of excitement, the home teams offered quite a show. The evening was also a chance to celebrate the central role the sport plays in the town’s life with festive music and solemn ceremonies as reminders.
Drenched but Determined, Sarlat Rugby’s B Team Defeat Surgere
Before the start of the first game, the atmosphere in the stands was somewhat subdued. Heavy rainfall had many openly worried for the players and the game. Once the teams took to the field, however, the effects of the weather were immediately obvious. Players slid on treacherous footing, slippery balls slipped from cold fingers, and both teams had trouble gaining ground.
Nevertheless, given the opportunity by an SC Surgérien penalty, Sarlat Rugby seized the lead with a successful goal kick just 3 minutes in. Both teams would prove keen on kicking penalties rather than risking opportunities on tries. However, 11 minutes in, SC Surgérien proved they were not a team to be taken lightly, evening up the score off their own kick.
The Blue and Black reserves kept the pressure on and, five minutes later, Filip Perica scored their first try after a strong collective effort. While play was kept predominantly on the Surgérien side, moments before the halftime whistle, the visitors transformed another penalty, putting the score at a close 8-6 ahead of the break.
Things brightened up during the second half, quite literally, with rains letting up and the sun beginning to break through the clouds. Just a few minutes into the game, under a giant rainbow, scrum-half Matt Doyle nailed another penalty kick for Sarlat Rugby. The energy level on both sides started to pick up as well. Now, instead of always kicking for ground or score, both teams were taking chances on penalties, tapping the ball and surging forward to build momentum. Winger Achilles Massignac would deliver the first major breakthrough for Sarlat, sprinting far and fast for the try, which Doyle transformed, taking the score to 18-6.
While the SC Surgérien fought valiantly to recover, Sarlat Rugby’s defense held strong, despite several close calls. Discipline was not perfect, however, and line-out mistakes and faults cost the home team precious opportunities. Nevertheless, audiences delighted when, in the final moments of the game, and despite being pushed up against their try line, Sarlat Rugby recovered the ball from a ruck. Nicolas Testut (#12) then sprinted nearly the entire length of the pitch to score one more try. The audience went wild!
Final score 23-6.
Sarlat Rugby’s A Team Mauls SC Surgérien
By the time the B team left the pitch, the Christian Goumondie Stadium was packed, and the taste of victory was already in the air. Audiences, however, had not just come out to watch Sarlat win, nor even just to watch rugby. The short Commemoration Ceremony that united both teams and audience members across all generations was a touching reminder of the role rugby plays in the community as a gathering point and common experience. It was also a time of celebration, however, with the live brass band helping to animate the stands throughout (and long after) the game.
Aware of the responsibility, and hope, resting on their shoulders, the A team took to the pitch with determination. In a sped-up mirror of the earlier game, Sarlat Rugby opened the score with a penalty kicked by Theo Entraygues (#9) less than 3 minutes in. The ball then spent a lot of time in the air early in the game, and both teams frequently kicked to clear ground. Sarlat Rugby tried another 5 minutes in, and missed. Entraygues then succeeded on the next one less than two minutes later. 6-0 for the home team, a fine start!
SC Surgérien, while often on the defensive, was not far behind, scoring a penalty of their own 11 minutes in. Sarlat Rugby, aware of the slippery ground, continued to kick at the goal at every opportunity. And, although they lost one off of the post, before the 20-minute mark Entraygues had scored a third penalty (9-3). The Blue and Black’s discipline and practice were beginning to show in other ways too. Sarlat’s defense was particularly on point as tackle after tackle deprived the visiting team of opportunities and momentum.
Another strength, Salat Rugby’s line outs were clean, resulting in successful mauls. They proved to be a powerful tool for gaining ground, and scoring, such as when a powerful maul in SC Surgérien’s 22m allowed #2, Luciano Bencivenga, to break out and score the first try of the game. Confirmed by the #9 for a 16-3 lead that Sarlat would hold on to for the next ten minutes, despite a very close call by Frank Fresneda. 33 minutes in, Surgére finally got another opportunity, and a successful penalty by their #10 narrowed the gap. But not for long.
Just one minute later, SC Surgérien managed to collapse the Sarlat Rugby maul, stopping Achraf Ben Hamouda. But they couldn’t stop Hemani Paea. 23-6 with the conversion. The action was non-stop, however, and the visitors’ #15 scored a penalty just minutes before the halftime whistle. Not to be outdone, Sarlat Rugby pushed hard up the center, and could have scored on a penalty, but went for the line-out instead. The Blue and Black warriors proved their performance to be the result of hard work and practice rather than mere luck, with another successful maul, try, and conversion. 30 – 9 going into halftime.
Sarlat Rugby Takes the Lead against SC Surgérien
Halftime gave Sarlat another chance to showcase the rugby community coming together, but also opening up. It was a chance to introduce the new Women’s rugby team to the town! They have been recruiting heavily, and now have both a senior and junior team, and hope to add more. Like many frontiers, this is a new one that Sarlat Rugby is determined to help the team and town cross. With the help of a big new international sponsor, the project is off to a good start! As was the A team for the second half of their game.
The team’s momentum built fast when a line-out error by SC Surgérien let them gain 60 meters, and a successful counter-ruck gained Sarlat possession. The ball went down the line until #10, Serafin Bordoli, offloaded it to #11, Lucas Caneda, who scored the fourth try of the day in the corner. The fifth followed soon after, as night began to fall, when too many Surgériens moved in to stop a Blue and Black maul. This left defenses too thin to stop Paea after a rapid clearing down the line gave Bordoli the chance to hand it to him. 42 – 9 after the conversion.
With their strong lead, coach Stephane Labrousse chose to give several of the Sarlat Rugby players a breather, sending in fresh players to continue attacking without letting go on the defense now that the offensive bonus point was within reach. They arrived just in time to push a maul through for a sixth try, and converted it again, giving Sarlat 49 against 9 for SC Surgérien. Seeking not to lose face, the visitors pushed hard up and down the Blue and Black line to find a gap in the defense, but David Ellis’s work was paying off as they didn’t land a single try all game.
The last 20 minutes were a struggle in the deepening dark. SC Surgérien was pushing hard to try and get at least one try, but Sarlat Rugby refused to let them score, despite frequently being backed up against the try line. Unfortunately, while their zeal was effective, it did come at a cost as Jules Chadourne got a red card in the final minutes of the game. The dangerous tackle will be reviewed of course, but he will miss at least one of the next few games—games that will be important if Sarlat is to solidify its status as the front runner.
A final score of 49 to 9 did make the coach smile, however, especially as Stephane Labrousse’s touch could certainly be felt in the increasingly effective mauls. “Two fine victories with improvements in both A and B teams, despite difficult weather conditions. In the A team, they knew when to be patient with a few good sequences, and they did good work on the mauls,” he said about the games against SC Surgérien. His only regret was the red card at the end.
With the offensive bonus point, and the biggest score advantage on the chart after only two games, Sarlat Rugby now sits at the top of their bracket. While it is far too early to cry victory, there can be no doubt that Sarlat’s Blue and Black team is off to a very strong start indeed.
|A Team||B Team|
3. Ben Hamouda
7. Laporte (Captain)
19. Carriere R.
13. Carriere C. (Captain)
20. Le Goff