On Sunday 19th January, 2014, the Lebanese Rugby Union Federation’s representative team, the Beirut Select XV, played a hard fought match against the French UNIFL’s team, XV FCR at the Lebanese University, Hadath eventually coming out victorious 10 – 5.
Both teams went into the match with great enthusiasm, the French boasting a squad of over 50 players, many of who had played rugby at quite high levels in France. The Beirut Select team boasted a mixture of seasoned veterans and relative newcomers and went into the game as relative underdogs.
From the outset it was obvious that like many French teams, XV FCR sought to dominate play through the renowned French attacking flair and their clearly more sizable forward pack but some aggressive defence from the Beirut team highlighted some weakness particularly in the outer French backs.
The first twenty minutes of the game were a tightly contested struggle with position and advantage seesawing between both teams until a number of forced and unforced errors saw the XV FCR pressuring the Beirut line with consecutive rucks. This consistent pressure eventually led XV FCR posting the game’s first points through an unconverted try to Fullback, Laurent Laskri-Liegeois, giving the visitors a halftime lead of 5 – 0.
Beirut started the second half with a great deal more aggressiveness especially through their forwards. The Beirut rucks, scrums and lineouts began to dominate the XV FCR, who while being much bigger in size than the relatively smaller Beirut pack seemed to lack endurance and were often found wanting out in the XV FCR backline.
Some ill-disciplined play by the French led to the Beirut side being awarded a penalty, which was subsequently converted by Karim Jammal to make the score 5 – 3.
Standout performances by a number of the Beirut forwards including the Finan Brothers, Number 8, Joe Bakhache and newcomer, Rayan Barhouche provided effective ball in the ruck area and enabled the Beirut backs to begin to run more freely.
Effective running from Beirut’s outside backs including Jean Remily and Robin Hachache eventually led to the latter posting Beirut’s first try of the match, which was subsequently converted by Number 10 and Beirut Captain, Karim Jammal bringing the score to 10 – 5.
A late charge by XV FCR pressured the Beirut line in the dying moments of the game yet time eventually ran out and Beirut claimed victory in the opening encounter between the two teams.
As the teams cheered each other off the field and shared a beer, the French Commanding Officer of XV FCR awarded Beirut Captain, Karim Jammal with the Francophone Cup. Federation Chairman, Alex Jammal awarded XV FCR representative, Cedric Dwoinikoff with a memorial plaque of the game.
Regardless of the tightness of the contest, the spirit of rugby was well and truly the winner on the day and both teams are looking forward to the return match in a few weeks time.
'Lebanon in Union'