Sunday, 21 February 2010

rugby in St Jean de Luz

Rugby is the most popular sport in St Jean de Luz. Rather than kicking a football, youngsters on the beach play touch rugby. I can name several famous rugby teams from the Basque region (Biarritz, Bayonne, Pau, Dax) but I can't think of one football team. I guess the nearest big team is Bordeaux. Anyway, it is refreshing that the oval rather than round ball dominates.

St Jean de Luz Olympique are mid-table of Pool 5 in the Federale 1 (a number of pools comprise the third division of French rugby). I have been to watch them a few times and given the sun was shining opted to take some fresh air. Today the match was against Mauleon who lie two places below SJLO. Although the sun was shining the wind was howling which made for interesting conditions.

The first half was uneventful, ending 6-6. There were a couple of heated exchanges and SJLO admirably weathered ten minutes down a man after their scrum-half was sin-binned. The second half started more dramatically and SJLO ran in two unanswered tries which they duly converted. Both tries came from quick thinking back play and the visitors quickly became frustrated. Together with a scrum that destroyed the opposition SJLO were never troubled by a lacklustre Mauleon. Mauleon may have edged the punch-ups but it only gave SJLO penalties which they duly scored. SJLO won convincingly 26-6.

What was interesting was the crowd. Given this is Pool 5 of the 3rd division I am always pleasantly surprised that so many people come along and support their team. I am guessing there were over a thousand today. That's more than most of the Premier Division teams in Scotland could dream off, and the tickets are cheaper and beer more readily available. If you find yourself at a loose end on a Sunday in the Basque Country do try and take in a match. It's no suprise the national team is so strong.

Basque of the day:- rugby :: rugby