In what was a dismal match out in the east of Paris, RC Vincennes defeated BRFC 15-14, turning what was a bright start to the expat's 2011/12 campaign into mid-table mediocrity.
It could have been 3 wins from 4, with a good 15 points in the bag – 5 off what would conceivably secure the British club's spot in the the top flight next year. Instead, they go into the first break of the season with a 50:50 record after two sitters were missed with the boot and a positive reaction came just that little bit too late.
The objective this weekend was for the team to head home from Vincennes, a notoriously hard place to go and win, with a bonus point victory to build on their early season momentum. With several players ill on the day and a few more carrying niggles, it was always going to be a hard one, but one which should have been attainable.
The heads weren't right though. This may have been down to the early kick-off, or a week which saw their Tuesday training rained out and their Thursday session called off, but none could really be used as excuses. Vincennes have always loved playing the BRFC, something that is no doubt down to the ever venomous Anglo-French thing but also to the multiple connections that they have with the British club. They came out firing and signalled their intent to the British boys from the off.
The early exchanges were as thunderous in contact as they were to and fro-ing in the air with several kicks being flung from both back threes. The Vincennes back row were not afraid to get their heads stuck in and their hands all over the ball – something that lead to the concession of a few penalties by the British.
It was BRFC who had the chance to strike first however with Vincennes caught offside just in-front of their posts after a half break from Damien Valenza and support run from Philippe “Assistant Secretary” Martin-Davies. An out-of-sorts fly-half missed the attempt however leaving the game scoreless and giving RCV a reprieve.
This is when the French decided to up the ante. With the BRFC line-out creaking, they gained territory and with that began adding extra pressure. Attempting to run the ball out of their half BRFC flung it wide and one stray pass was enough for the Vincennes winger to pounce. Hacking the ball on once, twice and then a third time he went over in the left hand corner for the first score of the match. On the match footage provided after the game, a baby can be heard crying. 5-0 Vincennes.
Sensing the beginnings of a slippery slip-up the expat boys rallied under the posts so as to finish the first half strongly. They managed to do just that with some strong running that lead to a scrum deep in the Vincennes 22. The same training ground move that has worked wonders off the back of many an eight man shove this season was once again used with Sergio cutting the line to go in under the posts. He only stepped twice on his way this time. The baby on the tape was laughing.
The conversion made it 7-5 at the end of a first half marred by the loss of Luca de Besi who, it was later announced, snapped his knee-cap in two. It'll be a real shame to see him sit out the next few weeks.
As the pompiers took our dear winger away, the second began with the ever present “Assistant Secretary” Davies flicking the kick-off back into BRFC hands. The possession took the British contingent downfield and soon picked up a penalty opposite the posts as the Vincennes tacklers failed to roll away. The kick was missed though letting another crucial three points go begging.
This was when RC Vincennes once again decided to turn the screw, sending some strong runners up the middle and slowly constructing their opportunity. Their breakthrough came as a hole opened up in the right side of the BRFC defensive line, letting their nifty fullback through. Side-stepping his opposite number he ran in under the posts. Thankfully, their kicker was also having an off day and fluffed his own sitter, leaving the score at 10-7.
The British Rugby Club wouldn't respond as valiantly to this assault as they did the last one however. Vincennes took the ascendency, spurred on by their score and confident that the expat team was there for the taking. They continued sending their big runners in and began moving the ball about more. Some great cover defence from Chopper Mead brought a Vincennes attack to a halt wide-right as tempers began to flare around the park – frustration from the BRFC spiked with a little arrogance from the Vincennes back row.
With the BRFC line-out faltering that frustration would grow as good ball became hard to come by for the visitors. It would peak a few minutes later as the home side's inside centre broke the line and went in for their third. Another missed conversion made it 15-7 with only a few minutes left to play. This finally knocked some urgency into BRFC heads, Dougal Henderson leading the charge to get the two tries required to win at the death.
The expat boys thought they'd clinched the first after a quick tap penalty lead to Jeremy Angelier burrowing over the white-wash. This would have still given the boys time for a conversion attempt and last bout of possession. For some unknown reason the ref brought things back to the penalty. In went the forwards and out came the ball, running through Dougal and then onto Jeremy who popped up out wide to touch down.
Wanting to take the conversion quickly the team were told that that would be that. The extras took the score to an agonising 15-14. Truth is though, anything but a loss would have been undeserved although some solace can be taken from the fact that the worst BRFC performance of the year thus far only lead to a 1 point defeat.
Possibly the worst thing though is that this match provided all the match report-writing inspiration of an Italy-Scotland clash. Yes Guillaume was stripped of a pre-match awarding of dick of the day for sporting leggings by big Damo whose line-out throwing was akin to Lindsay Lohan’s mental state (all over the place), whilst Philippe's deserved man of the match award for a tip-top performance on a losing side was immediately thwarted by an abysmal spectacle of
celebratory pint downing polite beverage sipping. It has, however, made me feel as numb as Heinrik Brussow’s face after that Samoan clocked him.
Let's hope that some hard work at training and a weekend off will lead to an uprising against the Police in two weeks time. Please get in touch with pun suggestions.