UNDERSTANDING SPAIN — SPANISH RUGBY. At last… a win for Trocadero Marbella Rugby Club!

Okay… this is, pure and simply a rugby blog. And so, if Rugby (like cars) isn’t your bag… look away now.

Marbella 34, Club de Rugby Athlético Portuenese 12

Marbella 1st XV recorded their first league victory in five outings of the Division of Honor B, defeating the Club de Rugby Athlético Portuenese 34-12 at the Campo de Rugby, Bahia Marbella yesterday.

The set-piece was the cornerstone of a much improved performance

The visitors, who go under the unfortunate acronym CRAP, did everything to defy this appellation by outplaying the home side for long periods of the game, dominating play in both the first and third quarters.

Indeed, had Athlético Portuenese (I really can’t call them CRAP) played to their strengths, used the deteriorating conditions and the frequent tenuousness of Marbella’s defensive organisation, this game could have had a very different outcome.

One of my first observations of Spanish rugby is that teams try to emulate the more flamboyant and high-risk skills they see on the television instead of playing what’s in front of them. And to be blunt, most players at this level do not possess the skills set, experience or the game awareness to pull it off.

This may sound a little harsh, but playing in the second tier of Spanish National Rugby, Marbella need to be more street wise and clinical if they are going to stay here.

On the other hand, the visitors had three strengths which they failed to recognise until the game was all but lost.

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Applause all round — relief as Marbella record their first league win

The first was their well-organised and effective driving maul. On the second play of the game, Marbella were penalized and Athlético Portuenese kicked deep into the home side’s 22. From the ensuing lineout they set an accurate maul from which they would have scored, had Marbella not disrupted it illegally. There was a strong case for a penalty try, instead of which Marbella were able to turn the ball over and exit their red zone. And, with one exception, we didn’t see this ploy again from the visitors until they scored from it midway through the second half.

Athlético Portuenese’s second failing was to recognise that Marbella were defending the 12 and 13 channels with front five forwards whose defensive abilities were not tested once throughout the game. Added to this, the player in the ‘guard’ position left so much space between the breakdown and the ‘bodyguard’ (and both used this as a rest period rather than an opportunity to initiate a counter ruck) that it wasn’t until weather conditions deteriorated, making movement of the ball difficult, that the half back decided to test this and exploit this weakness successfully, particularly as there was often space in the backfield due to the absence of a sweeper.

But by comparison, when Marbella had weathered the visitors’ early onslaught and went ahead with an Adrés Masuyoma penalty, South African outside-half Tim Louw attacked a dogleg in the Athlético Portuenese midfield defense and almost made it to the line before offloading neatly to Nacho Molina who scored between the posts.

Then five minutes later, Andres Marolla was put away for Marbella’s second touchdown when Andres Andrés Masuyoma spotted a mismatch on the short side and suddenly the home side were 17-0 ahead.

It got even better when Marbella (this time legally) were able to disrupt another Athlético Portuenese driving maul deep in their 22. From this they defended well and managed to turn the ball over and kick deep into the visitors’ half. An excellent kick chase led to their third try, this time unconverted, when skipper Kike González collected the ball to score.

After the interval heavy rain set in, and conditions, along with the misconception that a first league victory was already in the bag, allowed the visitors to dominate.

Having registered a converted try to bring them back into contention, Athlético Portuenese belatedly decided to test the Marbella back three’s ability to deal with the high ball and this tactic soon put territorial pressure on the home side. Marbella conceded a massive ten penalties during the third period, and can consider themselves fortunate to have had only one player sent to the bin. Frustration crept in as the home side found it difficult to exit their own red zone and tempers flared with the inevitable outbreak of  ‘handbags‘ .

When they conceded a further converted try to make the score 22-12 with twelve minutes to go, the game was back in the balance.

As Marbella had previously lost control of close games with poor game management and lack of fitness from the sixty-minute mark, the warning bells were ringing.

It hadn’t helped, of course, that a try shortly after the interval that would probably have made the game safe had been overruled slightly dubiously for a foot in touch.

However, the decider eventually came in the 67th minute when Athlético Portuenese coughed up the ball in their own 22 and Daniel Camarero ran it back to made the score 27-12.

Minutes later, Callum Grenfell adeptly collected an under-hit chip from the Athlético Portuenese outside half and cantered in under the sticks for a converted score, making the final tally 34-12.

Man of The Match, presented by the Cafés Baque was adjudged to be Marbella scrum half Diego Echevarria.

So what can we make of this performance?

Firstly, did they deserve the ‘W’?

Yes they did, although they had to rely on a little bit of good fortunate to finally break the opponents. But there is a balance of core individual and unit ability in the squad, and this will take them forward to better things. Undoubtedly Marbella have improved leaps and bounds since I last watched a league game.

The defensive organisation is recognizable although more intuitive opponents would have punched holes in the midfield instead of shipping the ball wide. Number 5 was constantly in the 10 or 12 channel yet he did not have to make one tackle throughout the game.

The handling has also improved. The ball is being passed with a sympathy that encourages the receiver to run onto it and attack space, although there is still too much lateral drift in lines of attack, which makes defence much easier.

The set piece is also excellent — the lineout in particular. Marbella won over 90% of their own ball in difficult conditions and usually made the correct decision as to whether to contest or smash the opposition’s.

There are still areas for improvement — fitness in particular. This is not entirely down to a lack of commitment but rather a lack of experience as to what to do in certain situations.

Players, pretty much at all levels in the modern game, do not need to cover every blade of grass any more; both in attack and defence, well structured sides operate zonal systems (developed at least in part from the ghastly and negative ‘pod’ systems of a decade ago). This means teams should operate, both in attack and defence, from touchline to touchline.

This, at least, is a lesson that any side can learn from watching the All Blacks.

The players are not vocal enough in defence, and often defenders were ball watching with the last man standing in line with midpoint of the pitch. Better oppositions will quickly spot this and exploit the available space.

And then there’s the discipline.

As a coach, I used to tell players that no one goes out intending to have a poor game. Sometimes it happens. And sometimes you just know you’re having a “’mare”, but you also know that you’re one piece of brilliance away from putting it all right. But that interception you got your fingertips to left a man over on the outside and suddenly you’re five points worse off. So the next time you have the opportunity to make your mark, you hit the 12 late. Okay, he should get an Oscar (and a yellow) for his overreaction, but instead it gets you ten minutes in the bin.

Discipline is everything.

It’s your best kicker with his boots on fire, it’s the referee you seem to have in your pocket, and it’s the mental strength you get from looking at the faces of opponents who know they won’t break you.

Finally, you might like to have a look at this. It’s not new but I personally consider that this philosophy should apply to any rugby team who want to be successful .

So well done and congratulations to coach Burger Heldenguys and his players in getting that all important first win.

Hasta pronto, amigos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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