For Christophe Urios, the pill is struggling to pass. In the first two places in the Top 14 ranking since the 5th day, Union Bordeaux-Bègles was ejected from this folding seat, qualifying for the semi-finals, on the gong. The defeat suffered in Perpignan (22-15), Sunday June 5, pushed the UBB back to third place. As a result, the Girondin club must go through a perilous barrage against Racing 92, Sunday June 12. “It’s not what we wanted, but there is a form of logic”conceded the Bordeaux-Béglais manager after the rout in Catalonia.
This downgrade is the result of a second half of the season completely missed by UBB. Solid leaders with two defeats at the end of the first leg, Matthieu Jalibert’s teammates have suffered eight losses in the last fourteen games. A record comparable to that of Stade Français, Brive and Perpignan, ranked between 11th and 13th place.
However, and this is the whole contrast, this quasi-relegation pace has kept the Bordelo-Béglais in the top 6. No small feat, for a club which waited ten years to experience its first final stages, the last year, after several disappointments. This time, the lead acquired at the start of the season was considerable. The slap inflicted by Toulon (16-29) in early May is the only defeat of the period with more than seven points difference. The defensive bonuses collected here and there have, on arrival, allowed the UBB to save its place.
In its crossing of the desert, Bordeaux-Bègles was not really helped by events. Many executives (Jalibert, Petti, Seuteni, Lam, Buros…) have long been away from the meadows. Others, like Woki, Lucu and Moefana, took part in the victorious campaign of the XV of France in the Tournament of the six nations.
Their absences largely halted the dynamics of the fall and forced Christophe Urios to innovate. The most visible example is undoubtedly the conversion of Louis Picamoles, number 8 with 82 selections, to the second line position, even if the future retiree is not unhappy with this change. The setbacks did not stop there. Even with a slight revival of form in April (victories in Paris and Montpellier), the UBB remains feverish despite the return of its executives.
Is the evil deep? So serene since his arrival in Gironde three years ago, the experienced Christophe Urios gives the impression of doubt. “It’s going to be hard for me to bounce back personally”, confessed the manager after the last game of the regular season. The former Castrese did not hesitate to sting some of his executives, including Cameron Woki and Matthieu Jalibert. “It’s up to the players to take the thing. But Cameron, I don’t see it. Matthieu, I don’t see it.“, he regretted.
Regularly praised for his managerial qualities, champion of France with Castres in 2018, Urios knows how to do it in terms of group management. These targeted attacks are likely to remobilize its executives. “It’s time for leaders to come out of the woods”he confirmed on Tuesday. It’s the first time that I find myself in the final phase and that I don’t know my team composition”admitted the UBB manager.
With a duel of Pumas on the wings
—UBB Rugby (@UBBrugby) June 8, 2022
Bordeaux-Bègles is, in addition, faced with the lack of experience of part of its workforce. Only veterans Tameifuna (with Racing), Picamoles (in Toulouse) and Lamerat (in Clermont) won the Brennus. This relative inexperience could well prove detrimental.
Because opposite, Racing has just completed its twelfth season in a row in the top 6. Even rejuvenated, the Altosequan squad has several executives who have survived the 2016 title. The Ile-de-France residents have also triumphed in their last two visits to Gironde and have won four of their last five games. “But I also know that we are capable of anything! We are facing our destiny”, wants to believe Urios.
The 56-year-old manager has not forgotten that, last year, his team lost its last two games of the regular season, before beating Clermont in the play-off and then shaking Toulouse in the half (24-21 defeat). “Now a new championship begins”, synthesized his counterpart racingman Laurent Travers. Its face displayed until January shows it, the UBB has the weapons to climb the three steps separating it from the Brennus.