Borders 0 Biarritz 25: Blanco day for beaten Borders

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The Independent Online

The bright midday sunshine could have been transported from home, but the chill from the morning frost offered a sharp reminder that this was the borders of Scotland, not Biarritz. Still, the surreal sight of Serge Blanco getting stuck into a burger against the backdrop of the Eildon Hills suggested the rugby aristocrats from the Atlantic coast of south-west France might not be lacking in appetite against the artisans from the foot of the Magners League.

Biarritz did not take long to sink their chops into Steve Bates's vulnerable Border Reivers. Attacking from the off, the reigning French champions and Heineken Cup runners-up of last season were across the home line by the fifth minute of the Pool Six fixture. There was simply too much quality for Borders to contain - Julien Peyrelongue, Imanol Harinordoquy and Damien Traille combining to make the groundwork in a move that culminated in Nicolas Brusque spinning out a long pass for the lock David Couzinet to score in the left corner.

And that was just about that. Biarritz might have blown their last Heineken Cup match on British soil, their four-point loss to Munster in last season's final in Cardiff, but in Galashiels yesterday there was no O'Connell, O'Callaghan or O'Gara in the opposition ranks - and no 16th man to face in the form of 50,000 opposition fans.

There were huge gaps around the ground, although the presence of Blanco and several Santa-hatted Basques took the attendance up to all of 1,373, and on the pitch there were far too many Biarritz players capable of punching holes in the home guard. Still, at least the gulf on the scoreboard stopped short of humiliation territory.

That, and keeping Biarritz waiting until the sixth minute of injury time for their bonus-point score, made it something of a qualified success in the damage- limitation stakes for Bates and his side, although they did lose the lock Craig Hamilton before the end with ankle ligament trouble. As the Borders coach reflected: "We weren't steamrollered."

Indeed, they were not. After the early score by Couzinet, Biarritz broke through just once more before the interval, the giant wing Jean-Baptiste Gobelet diving over in the left corner. There were just the two tries in the second-half, too, courtesy of Traille and Harinordoquy.

As for Borders, they drew a complete Blanco. It is unlikely to be any easier for them next Sunday, when Biarritz have the benefit of home ground and home cuisine.

Borders: C MacRae (capt); B Rennie (D Flockhart, 71), G Law, N De Luca, B Daniel; S Jones (G Townsend, 71), B McKerchar (R Chrystie, 47); G Kerr, R Ford (S Scott, 77), B Douglas (E Kalman, 77), S Grimes, C Hamilton (J Dalziel, 62), O Palepoi, S Gray (A Miller, 53), K Brown.

Biarritz: N Brusque (B Dambielle, 78); P Bidabé, M Bosch (S Bobo, 73), D Traille, J-B Gobelet; J Peyrelongue, D Yachvili; K Lealamanua, B August (capt), B Lecouls (H Wessels, 56), T Hall, D Couzinet (S Delape, 51), S Betsen, I Harinordoquy, T Lièvremont (S Malonga, 58).

Referee: N Owens (Wales).

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