I’m now in my fourth month away from rugby. Having watched Gloucester overcome London Irish at a very rainy Kingsholm over the Christmas period, I returned to Spain and barely seen a game of rugby since. There was of course access to the Six Nations, but European Rugby, Premiership and Pro12 rugby is hard to come by. That is why, whilst the rest of you were watching Racing 92 down Leicester Tigers, I was watching the Divisió D’Honor Catalana Final- the final of the top league in Catalonia, contested by two Barcelona teams- CEU and FC Barcelona. Whether it’s a national final or a regional final, I’ll let you argue between yourselves..
The game was staged by the local club of Igualada, Anoia Rugby, who yesterday secured a 3rd place finish in the 3rd division with 7-27 bonus point win over rivals RC Mataró in just their second season. The first thing that struck me about it, was the support that turned out in Estadi Les Comes for the final. For those who don’t know, Igualada is a small city just outside of Barcelona, about 45 minutes in the car, so not exactly a long haul journey for the fans. Entry to the stadium was free, where Anoia Rugby were selling kit and the bar was serving up beers and hot food. A friend and I attended and by our estimation, there were a few hundred people in attendance.
In terms of how good that is for a final here, I don’t know. From reading Rugby Catalonia’s website, there were concerns about attendance; according to Wikipedia, as of 2014, Igualada is a city of just under 40,000 people. In Igualada, Rugby Union is very new, with Anoia Rugby only having been founded in 2013. Despite all of this, on a personal level I was impressed- there were definitely travelling fans from both teams who were keen to be heard and there was a good atmosphere inside Estadi Les Comes.
I didn’t take a minute by minute recording of the game, however the one thing that impressed me was the desire to play. Now I know this isn’t a European final, the rugby isn’t professional. But a final is a final. CEU seemed to have the edge in the scrum and both sides had fairly reliable kickers. However, no matter where they were on the field, other than the occasional kick to touch, it was tap and goes. The players went for all or nothing, which of course, is a risky tactic, but a real crowd pleaser, too.
Both teams were trying things, plenty of inside balls, switch moves and long looping passes to make for a fast and open game of rugby. This was all played on a warm sunny day, on a 4G pitch which of course helped towards making the game so open and free flowing. Of course, some moves didn’t come off, there were knock ons and there were forward passes, but both sides showed real endeavour and initiative to try things and it was an exciting game to watch.
The eventual result was 19-11, the favourites FC Barcelona taking home the silverware. Overall, this seemed a fair result as FC Barcelona seemed to have just a bit more cutting edge, but the result doesn’t reflect how fast paced the game was. That said, the forwards all seemed to make better backs than scrummagers, so perhaps that can be expected. I’m now looking forward to the Beach Rugby tournament which lands in Igualada on the first week of July.
You can check out a cool clip of the game, here.
There are a few snaps of mine, and other available, here.
As usual, let me know your thoughts through the comments, or my Twitter, which you can find below!
The Scribbler, April 24th, 2016