Deprived of numerous key players, despite throwing everything into the battle the Ciel et Blanc fall to a heavy (25-9) loss in Bègles. But while the locals have made a big step to avoiding relegation, the suspense for the Franciliens remains complete before hosting Castres next Saturday. (Credit photo : Emilie Manchon)
Fabrice Estebanez hit the nail on the head when summing up this game on the final whistle. “Bordeaux were better than us,” admitted the Ciel et Blanc international centre. “We knew they would play the game at pace, and that is exactly what they did.”
Indeed, despite a heavy and slippery surface at Stade André-Moga, the players of l’Union Bordeaux-Bègles simply confirmed their status as a team which like to play running rugby. In these difficult conditions, the Bordelais refused to shut down their game, putting their visitors repeatedly under pressure through the speed and the precision of their execution. And putting up an impermeable defensive line whenever the Ciel et Blanc looked liked scoring.
Consequently, Racing Metro 92 leaves Bordeaux without having scored a single try, and without even claiming the defensive bonus point which even at the end of the game, seemed within their grasp. Weakened by the absence of a dozen internationals, even if Maxime Machenaud, back from Cardiff, and Marc Andreu made the effort to come and support their team-mates, the lack of cohesion in the Racing ranks once again cost them dearly.
The Ciel et Blanc nevertheless got off to a good start, playing with the wind at their backs occupying the opposition camp from the off, and forcing the Bordelais into error. After five minutes, Benjamin Dambielle opened the scoring with a penalty goal for Racing, but Pierre Bernard (who scored a total of 20 points) replied with two goals, to take the lead 6-3.
Shortly after, Bernard struck again. Putting the Racing defence under pressure with a tactical kick of diabolical precision, he opened the way for his fullback Domvo who re-gathered and streaked away to score near the posts. With the conversion, after 22 minutes UBB were out to a handy 13-3 lead. “We are lacking in efficiency, whereas Bordeaux is playing at pace and winning the impacts,” observed Laurent Travers from the sideline.
With Jone Qovu called on to contribute his power in the centre of the field, and with some sparkling runs from Juan Imhoff playing the role of a ‘libero’ in the defence, it looked as though the visitors were about to turn the game around. But repeated penalties in the tackle zone, plus Qovu’s yellow card for a dangerous tackle in the 36th minute, made the task far more complicated.
Trailing 19-6 at half-time, from the start of the second-half, it looked as though the Ciel et Blanc were starting to get the upper-hand. A yellow card for Bordeaux flanker Madaule (50th) and the accompanying penalty goal by Dambielle (19-9) loomed as a turning point in the game. But despite having the extra man for ten minutes, the Franciliens still failed to inject sufficient pace into their game to get through the Bordeaux defence.
Bernard added two more goals about the hour (25-9), but even with the arrival of fresh legs in the final quarter, the Ciel et Blanc could not reduce the deficit. They gave it everything, and after a long sequence of play in the UBB 22, Masi Matadigo dived over the goal-line in the 77th minute. But it was not to be, and as a symbol of the Ciel et Blanc frustration, the try was refused by the referee after numerous slow-motion replays. “We really made tough work of it,” conceded Estebanez as he came off the pitch. “But we are not dead yet, and now we have to concentrate on preparing for what will be the crucial game against Castres at home next Saturday.”
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