At the Stade de France
At the Stade de France
The unexpected announcer had tried to change things.
In vain, of course.
Full sound, incongruous instructions - "a little enthusiasm ladies and gentlemen, wave your flags" - addressed to the thirty or so journalists acting as the audience - do not compensate for the empty stands, the depressing silence which enveloped the Stade de France at kick-off time.
A gloomy atmosphere, then downright twilight when the man at the microphone loudly launched the homage to Samuel Patty and the notes of One from U2 rose in a deserted enclosure.
First to absent subscribers ...
We must believe that this cathedral silence, this high mass without the faithful, weighed more on the minds of the Blues, back in combat almost eight months after their last match (a defeat in Edinburgh in early March), than on those of the Welsh.
During the first ten minutes of this no-stakes test - apart from preparing for the “real” match, next Saturday at the same place, against Ireland to close the Six Nations Tournament - Ollivon and his partners are like their supporters: to absent subscribers.
A forward on the reception of the kick-off for a try conceded after 62 seconds of play, registered by the former back of RC Toulon, Leigh Halfpenny.
Then a litany of errors and faults sanctioned by striker Dan Biggar.
6 minutes after the kick-off, the XV of France is led 10 to 0 and the fear of a failed return is emerging.
But the Blues had the merit of waking up, of putting their heart to work given the unambiguous context that prevails: sportsmen (including Sunday) considered negligible quantities and supporters considered plague victims by the powers public.
Let us give them thanks for having remained motivated in these times when sport is disappearing in general indifference, with the constant assent of the dedicated Deputy Minister when the Deputy Minister for Culture distributes 8-figure grants to so much more popular French authored films and other avant-garde plays.
Then a recital
In a stadium deprived of his life, of his raison d'être by an irrefutable camera, while it seems scientifically proven that garnishing the seats in front of the big screen of a closed room is much less conducive to contamination, the Blues gradually managed to ignore the dismal echo returned by the empty bays to find their way back to the beginning of the year.
The pack rebels, maestros Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont increase the tempo.
The Toulouse opening half tears the red curtain to lead to a strength test, flush with the regrouping, of his teammate in red-and-black Cyril Baille (7-10, 13th).
The start of the recital.
The first violin, Virimi Vakatawa, tuned.
With a chistera, he serves Teddy Thomas, who overflows before serving Antoine Dupont.
The Blues finally pass in front of the score (14-13, 31st).
This time, it is Gaël Fickou who launches the movement, Vakatawa resumes crescendo and sends… Antoine Dupont in the end of the Red Devils, sent back to hell (21-13).
Back from the locker room, the Welsh snort, try to refuse their fate.
But Dan Biggar, impeccable so far, misplaces 8 points (2 penalties, 1 transformation) when Romain Ntamack achieves a score without false note (6 out of 6).
Antoine Dupont continues his recital, tears the defensive curtain in the heart and serves his captain, Charles Ollivon, for an essay that responds to that, in force, of the pillar Smith ((31-21, 68th). A dazzling solo by Teddy Thomas - a small kick over the last defender picked up by himself - concludes the French demonstration (38-21, 73rd) Five tries registered and a convincing victory which gives an air of last spring to this very gloomy autumn. A nice corner of blue sky.
Haouas: a second chance to seize with the XV of France