Saturday, January 5, 2008

Biarritz scrape unconvincing win

Biarritz hung on to beat visiting Montauban 10-8 in the Top 14 before an unhappy crowd at Stade Aguilйra. The ground was not full and those who were there expressed their discontent at the final whistle.

Biarritz Olympique - BO - were booed when the final whistle went. They may have started well but in the end Montauban were all over them as they grew increasingly planless after their opening salvo.

Not that the weather was an excuse. It was cold, but the breeze barely ruffled a flag and the ground was in great condition. Biarritz simply faded and conformed that they were having a feeble season.

Montauban on the other hand had a simple plan and stuck to it. They kicked and chased. But if they won a turn-over, which they did often, they swing swiftly into action. When Biarritz started a maul they sent just one Horatio in to perform a one-man sack, which annoyed the home side.

It was not an enthralling game. The early promise petered out. The scrums were a mess. There were 16 of them. Those 16 produced 7 resets, 14 collapses and 4 penalties. That was not entertaining.

When the score made the disjointed game exciting towards the end, the referee gave up on tackles which became a lottery as players entered at will, plunged to their heart's content and generally did as they felt like.

The standard of goal kicking was poor. Biarritz missed four penalty kicks at goal and a drop attempt. Montauban missed a penalty, a conversion and three drop attempts.

The third drop attempt was from close in with 6 minutes to go and the score 10-8. Sйbastien Fauquй's kick hit the upright and bounced out.

Biarritz started like a house on fire, moving the ball backwards and forwards across the field without really looking like scoring. Hands let them down and then Dupuy hooked a straightforward penalty. But then Dupuy set off Biarritz's only try, their first one at home in this season's Top 14.

It started when Biarritz were attacking but were penalised under the Montauban posts. Fortassin's kick did not make touch and Takudzwa Ngwenya started speeding down the left. Traille carried it on with a strong burst. He was tackled but the ball came back quickly to Dupuy who broke on an speedy arc between Yoan Audrin and Matthias Rolland. As he was being tackled he gave to Ashwin Willemse who had got to his shoulder. Willemse handed off Fortassin and scored near the posts. Dupuy converted and Biarritz led 7-0 after 25 minutes.

Dupuy missed his second penalty and then, when Montauban were penalised at a collapsed scrum, Traille kicked the goal to make the half-time score 10-0.

Biarritz did not score in the second half.

10 metres outside their 22, Montauban won a turn-over and big Yannick Caballero broke on the blind-side on the right. He raced ahead and then grubbered long. Ngwenya tried to fall on the ball but Cabellero pressurised him and the ball was loose for Fortassin to foot into the Biarritz in-goal where Fortassin beat Willemse to the touch down. Fortassin missed the conversion from touch but he made up for it when he goaled a 52-metre penalty kick which bounced off the crossbar and over.

Biarritz had a great chance to score when Nicolas Brusque broke off Santiago Dellapи and Serge Betsen carried it on. But again it petered out with poor handling and a missed penalty kick.

There was a lively scrap after this when Dellapи stamped on a prone opponent and punches were thrown.

Biarritz then did little but defend after this with Brusque kicking touches. With ten seconds left Montauban missed a long drop attempt.

The scorers:

For Biarritz:
Try: Willemse
Con: Dupuy
Pen: Traille

For Montauban:
Try: Fortassin
Pen: Fortassin

The teams:

Biarritz: 15 Nicolas Brusque, 14 Ashwin Willemse, 13 Andrea Masi, 12 Damien Traille, 11 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 10 Julien Peyrelongue, 9 Julian Dupuy, 8 Samiu Vahafolau, 7 Stиve Malonga, 6 Serge Betsen, 5 Trevor Hall, 4 Jйrфme Thion, 3 Denis Avril, 2 Benoоt August, 1 Petru Balan.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Noirot, 17 Eduard Coetzee, 18 Santiago Dellape, 19 Jacques Cronje, 20 Julien Cibray, 21 Romain Cabannes, 22 Philippe Bidabй

Montauban: 15 Fabien Fortassin, 14 Denis Cech, 13 Rida Jahouer, 12 Yoan Audrin, 11 Jean-Emmanuel Cassin, 10 Sйbastien Fauquй (captain), 9 Cйdric Garcia, 8 Yannick Caballero, 7 Ibrahim Diarra, 6 Marc Raynaud, 5 Scott Murray, 4 Matthias Rolland, 3 Salemane Sa, 2 Camille Traversa, 1 Pascal Peyron
Replacements: 16 Grйgory Arganиse, 17 Patrick Blanco, 18 Karim Ghezal, 19 Mattew Clarkin, 20 Petre Mitu, 21 Ryan Smith, 22 Sylvain Jonnet

Referee: Didier Mene

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