Biarritz Viewpoint: Yachvili beaten as Basque pack crack

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The Independent Online

Cardiff has never struck many visitors as a place that reminds one of the beautiful Basque coast. Now, Biarritz's beaten, broken rugby men will forever look upon the Welsh capital as a place of dark memories after their Heineken Cup final defeat yesterday.

For Biarritz, read England and the 1991 World Cup final. They, like the Basques, had ground their way to a major final by playing solid, conservative, unadventurous rugby. When they tried to flip a switch and produce an open running style in the final, it failed.

Biarritz were reminded of that truth yesterday. They might have disposed of Sale and Bath in the knock-out rounds with clinical efficiency but, much as they tried yesterday, they could not rediscover the flow to their game that they have possessed in the past.

Munster deserved their win for their huge self-belief and refusal to allow doubt to intrude. Biarritz, you sensed, didn't quite have that self-conviction and the precision required to open up tight defences amid the jangling nerves of a cup final just wasn't there either.

Dimitri Yachvili worked assiduously from scrum-half to lift those around him, but his forwards lost this final up front. They could not shut off Munster's constant foraging and they failed to break free of the red blanket thrown over the ball for so much of the game by the Munster pack. Theirs was a superb effort of unity and cohesion. They all sacrificed their bodies in the cause and Biarritz looked second best in that contest, too.

Patrice Lagisquet's men are the reigning French champions and they are still in with a chance of retaining that title in the next few weeks. But they have moved away from the penetrative, fast-raiding attacking style which once hallmarked their play and they looked poorer for that in this final.

There was not quite the necessary spring in their stride or conviction when the ball went down the line. And when they chose not to run they kicked with insufficient accuracy to ask serious questions of the Munster back three.

Rugby in the Basque region is thriving, but it will have to weather this significant setback. Perhaps Biarritz, like Munster, need to understand the pain of losing a final in this wonderful competition before they can acquire the deep-down hunger sides need to lift the coveted trophy.

Something else Biarritz might need to achieve that success is the type of support mustered by Munster's wonderful army of fans. They created enough passion to make a working girl blush.

Let the party begin, all over Ireland. God knows when it will end, if ever it does.

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