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A Brive Story of caution


By SimW
June 30 2013

A brive analysis of the fortunes of Brive and Tigers since that final in 1997.                                                                                                             The recent promotion of Brive back to the top flight in French rugby following a play-off victory against Pau got me thinking about the relative recent histories of the teams that contested the 1997 European Final. 

The 1997 final at the old Arms Park between Brive and Tigers was the second ever European final and the first for both teams following the inaugural final won by Toulouse the previous year. Given that the English teams didn’t enter the 1995-96 tournament this was a chance for Leicester to make history in dramatic fashion and prove that the 1996 result didn’t really count. 

Going into the game Leicester had topped their pool with a 4 from 4 record and due to scoring one more try than second placed Brive were the top seeds. A 23-13 quarter-final victory over Harlequins in November and the magnificent 37-11 semi-final January win over Toulouse won the Tigers a place in the final; where it all fell to pieces.

There was lots of talk after the match that Leicester expected to win the final and therefore didn’t take it seriously. Rumours of the pre-game walkabout seemed at odds with our history and the style of the players in the team; Cockerill and the rest of the ABC club, Poole and Johnson do not strike me as the type to expect a win. In any case, my over-riding memory was that the game represented a changing of the guard with Eric Miller coming on to replace Deano and Leon Lloyd replacing Rory. Leon had previously scored a magnificent try against Pau and was unlucky not to be selected for the final; experience being preferred by Bob Dwyer. My Father and I were sat a few rows behind the Tigers’ bench and so had a clear view of the frustration felt by Bob at the lacklustre performance from the Tigers.

On the day Brive were by far the better team and much has been written about the gulf in class with many a pundit lauding the Brive performance as the best in history. 4 tries for their back three made up of Viars, Fabre and Carrat is testament to the pace that Brive had in their team and the free-flowing rugby they played. The power of the Tigers pack was nullified by the largely un-lauded 8 from Brive and the eight points from the boot of Lamaison all but wiped out the 9 from John Liley. Had he converted them all it would have been much, much worse.

It was a painful day but it was this loss that set Tigers on their way to back-to-back victories in 2001 and 2002 and were it not for regional rugby and salary caps many more may have followed. But what did follow was a period of unparalleled success for Tigers with 9 successive domestic finals, a smattering of unsuccessful Euro finals and a steady succession of cups in the various other competitions. I won’t patronise the readers by listing them all out – we all have our own memories of these high points.

But what of Brive? The style and speed of their play in the ’97 final was for non-Tigers fans breathtakingly impressive. A typical Gallic performance incorporating power, pace and slick handling was worlds away from our forward dominated arm wrestling style. Surely they would be at the forefront of European rugby for years to come.

It started well. The following year Brive again made the final of Europe’s premier competition, giving themselves the chance to defend their title. However, after a bright start they were eventually beaten by a solitary point by Bath. Perhaps it was the pain of this near miss that started it all off. I like to think that Jon Callard’s Leicester roots were behind his 19 point winning haul in the final.

Two years later, in 2000, Brive were relegated to the Pro D2 due to financial irregularities. At the end of the 2002/03 season, after two years in the second division, Brive were promoted back to the Top 14 after finishing top of the D2 in the regular season.

In 2004 Brive qualified for the play-offs but apart from that they failed to trouble the stronger teams with this lack of progress being compounded by relegation back to the D2 at the end of the 2011-12 season. After one season, Brive gained promotion through the play-off system having placed second behind Oyonnax (no, me neither)! So in the 2013-14 season Brive will be back in the top flight but for how long?

Were they to be playing in the Aviva Premiership, with their budget of £6.375m, you would expect them to be competitive but in the Top 14 they are likely to struggle. I haven’t seen Brive play recently but their squad is hardly a who’s who of French Rugby which begs the question how much are they paying their current players and are they worth it? I’m sure Jamie Noon isn’t too concerned about this having spent three seasons there topping up his pension after his efforts for Newcastle and England came to an end – and who would blame him? Patrick Barnard, formerly of Saints and Wasps, is another Brive exile but let’s not dwell on his major success in 2008.

Of their current squad they currently have more Georgian (3) and Argentinian (3) capped players than French (2: Nicolas Jeanjean & Arnaud Méla). This will be a bonus during the International periods but with teams like Toulon spending their money on the ageing superstars of world rugby and Toulouse adjusting their recruitment criteria this advantage is not likely to last long.

The days of Olivier Magne, Dimitri Yachvili and the aforementioned Lamaison are certainly long gone. So whilst they are now back in the top flight their prospects are not great and I don’t expect them to finish in the top half of the table and therefore qualify for the Heineken Cup for another year. In fact, they may never get a chance to repeat their success of ‘97. Their greatest day is still the one highlight of their 100 year history.

On that fateful day I would have given anything to be a Brive fan. Given the last 15 years I’m glad it didn’t come true! Be careful what you wish for!

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A Brive Story of caution
TheLeicesterTigers.co.uk (IP Logged)
30/06/2013 18:05
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2013:07:15:22:14:42 by Tiggs.

 
Re: A Brive Story of caution
Purebob (IP Logged)
30/06/2013 18:12
* strokes chin * interesting !

Donate now to Cancer research

 
Re: A Brive Story of caution
Stopsy (IP Logged)
30/06/2013 18:15
Thanks Sim.

I moved house that day, the whole house was empty with the exception of the TV and the Video recorder, house moving was on hold for 90 minutes although grumpily resumed quickly thereafter.

My abiding memry was of us being roughed up in the lineout and being unable to react to this in any way apart from complaining to the ref which was not effective.

 
Re: A Brive Story of caution
Tiggs (IP Logged)
30/06/2013 18:40
A day with many memories for me, not least asking Bob Dywer at half-time, "what the hell was going on". He shrugged his shoulders, and said something along the lines of "gawd knows".
I knew then that we had already lost.

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/stephen.bath1/Bath/Photos/tighthead.gif http://homepage.ntlworld.com/stephen.bath1/Bath/Photos/TigersFire2.gif



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2013:06:30:23:03:46 by Tiggs.

 
Re: A Brive Story of caution
Tiggs (IP Logged)
30/06/2013 18:45
Oh, and many thanks SimW for bringing back the memories of the day, even if some were not all that good !

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/stephen.bath1/Bath/Photos/tighthead.gif http://homepage.ntlworld.com/stephen.bath1/Bath/Photos/TigersFire2.gif

 
Re: A Brive Story of caution
GT1 (IP Logged)
30/06/2013 21:52
Derek Bevan was the ref & he had it in for the Tigers from the start. He let Brive get away with murder at the lineout! Saying that we didn't play well enough & Brive deserved to their win!

 
Re: A Brive Story of caution
Johns (IP Logged)
01/07/2013 08:16
We returned with friends to the home of their Welsh relations in Cardiff after the game.

It could have been a better evening.

It was a long quiet drive home.

 
Re: A Brive Story of caution
Rich W (IP Logged)
01/07/2013 10:21
Thanks for that Sim. Like everyone else - horribly disappointing day - and a feeling to forget. Less said about Bevan the better.

Interesting how our fates have diverged though.

Oyonnax is in the Jura btw.

...

 
Re: A Brive Story of caution
01/07/2013 13:57
My son and I went expecting something good in Caerdydd

The good part was that I went with my son

It's sad to see any club in decline, but did they overstretch themselves financially - buy it, if you like - given their cumuppence?

But you couldn't really hold a grudge against them on the day, despite the hollow feeling in the pit of the stomach [or the fact Brive les Galliards is pretty unimpressive place]

Didn't Goodey spend some time there after he left us, with one or two other ex-pats?

'Lions led by donkeys' .. Lest we forget

 
Re: A Brive Story of caution
publandlord (IP Logged)
03/07/2013 13:32
Quote:
odd-shaped vagaries
My son and I went expecting something good in Caerdydd
The good part was that I went with my son

It's sad to see any club in decline, but did they overstretch themselves financially - buy it, if you like - given their cumuppence?

But you couldn't really hold a grudge against them on the day, despite the hollow feeling in the pit of the stomach [or the fact Brive les Galliards is pretty unimpressive place]

Didn't Goodey spend some time there after he left us, with one or two other ex-pats?

 
Re: A Brive Story of caution
06/07/2013 20:36
The quote seems accurate, but lacks affect without some observation or other?

'Lions led by donkeys' .. Lest we forget

 
Re: A Brive Story of caution
publandlord (IP Logged)
07/07/2013 11:36
Quote:
odd-shaped vagaries
The quote seems accurate, but lacks affect without some observation or other?

Yes, sorry, not completely au fait with forum posting. Regarding an observation, I was going to say that I find Brive la G. rather a nice French town, and having seen the rugby team on a number of occaisions, the improvement this season was pretty good, and with a large number of departures, and arrivals for the coming campaign, I reckon they might surprise a few opponents, I predict a top half finish !

 
Re: A Brive Story of caution
IDLETIMES (IP Logged)
09/07/2013 18:58
A very good piece. Bevan or not Brive completely outplayed us that day.Was that the year we had to clear the snow off the pitch before we played the Semi?.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2013:07:09:19:02:30 by IDLETIMES.

 
Re: A Brive Story of caution
Tiggs (IP Logged)
15/07/2013 22:14
Many thanks Sim !!!

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/stephen.bath1/Bath/Photos/tighthead.gif http://homepage.ntlworld.com/stephen.bath1/Bath/Photos/TigersFire2.gif

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