Nevers misssed their first opportunity in the Pro D2 finals. The score, 32-26, was not that bad, particularly as they got that result in the Jean-Dauger stadium. It confirms the resolve and talent of the team in this first series of play-offs. Unfortunately, a silly mistake led to a player being sent off, which turned things around shortly after the start. What would the team have done if that had not happened?
A nightmare scenario to start the match
The start was like a nightmare. From the first minute, with Hugo Fabrègue cleanly catching the short kick. Loïc Le Gal sent the ball into touch in the 22 yards. Nevers was pushed to commit a mistake and fly half Manuel Ordas sent the ball up into the skies of Bayonne. When it came down, Josaïa Raisuqe volleyed it into his own team, where, completely isolated, Pieter Van Lill was positioned. Lacking conviction, the Namibian grabbed the ball and brought it down between the posts. After viewing the footage, the referee allowed this highly unlikely try.
The ultimate punishment
While Ordas missed converting the try although it should have been easy, he found the target next time after a foul by Julien Kazubek. Nevers reacted well with some good passing to Stéphane Bonvalot who darted forward, but it all came to an end on the other wing. The battle was underway but everything would change.
Bunched together, Adam Jaulhac grabbed Fred Quercy by the legs. The blue and gold captain was wrong to want to do justice by himself when he stamped on the head of a player from Bayonne’s second line. After the video was seen, a yellow card for one and a red for the other seemed logical. We were hardly into the ninth minute.
Urruty and Le Gal saved their team kicking into touch an attack from Aymeric Luc and Romain Barthélémy. Then a Nevers maul continued with one of the many attacks from Nemo Roelofse. The game was quickly shifted to the wing by Le Gal and Frédéric Urruty, who carried out a remarkable pass back. Nasoni Naqiri got away from Filimo Taufifenua to get a try.
Bayonne increased their lead with Peïo Muscarditz playing with the Nevers defenders. Romain Barthélémy seemed to be about to repeat that but Auvasa Faleali’i got involved between the ground and the ball. During that, Hugo Fabrègue was found guilty of a foul and got a yellow card. Nevers would play for ten minutes with 13 against 15!
After half an hour, Nevers looked like they were on their way out with two tries by Van Lill. In spite of lacking men on the pitch, they managed to trap the Basques. A surprise by Faleali’i, helped by Roelofse and continued by Le Gal, enabled Raisuqe to get his fifteen th try of the season. With the conversion by their full back, Nevers came back to 22-12, the score that was to stay like that when the thirteen men went into the changing room, after a try by Muscarditz was refused (after watching the video), after intercepting a pass from Urruty, as the centre from Bayonne was offside.
The contribution of the substitutes
The second half got off to a quick start. Strengthened by the experience of Abdellatif Boutaty, the Bayonne pack warded off all the attacks by Nevers. After one of the attacks from the latter, the Basques took off again with Sean Robinson scoring without any hindrance. With Ordas converting for the third time, the players from the Pyrénées-Atlantiques could feel comfortable with their lead.
Nevers were not out yet and after a ball recovered by Tornike Mataradze, the team from Burgundy brought the game back to life. Théophile Cotte and Jason Fraser sending Julien Berger to score.
David, a Goliath
A drop goal by Tristan Tedder, after Julien Tisseron made his way up the field caught Raisuqe out near his line, offering a lead of thirteen to Bayonne.
There was a quarter of an hour left and it was hotly contested. After suffering three penalty kicks into touch, Xavier Péméja’s players found their way through with David Lolohea showing his power between the posts. Le Gal converted the try (32-26, 77 mins).
Unfortunately for Nevers, Raisuqe’s final attempt was upset by some clumsy footwork. Bayonne recovered the ball and wasted time until the end.