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Trevor' Diary 22 December


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Trevor Brennan's Diary - Issue 6

22 December 2006, 10:51 am

"I wanted the perfect ending. Now I've learned the hard way; some poems don't rhyme and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end...

Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what is going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity."

The American comedian, Gilda Radner.

For anyone who is not clear on that last word ambiguity, nothing in life is ever clear-cut. That can be both a good and a bad thing. Who would have predicted at the start of this competition, that Toulouse would not make the play-off stages? Well, certainly not me.

What can I say about the match? It's hard to explain. Sitting there on the bench watching my team Toulouse, they played superbly for 59 minutes. We clocked up 24 points in the first-half, practically unanswered until Fabien Pelous landed badly on his ankle when catching off a line-out, dropping the ball in the process, nearing half-time.

He was replaced by Romain Millo-Chlusky and they moved the ball wide off the ensuing scrum and scored. Half-time: 24-10. But you still thought, well I did anyway, that we had the game in our control. We came out and started well in the second-half, scoring again after some heavy pressure for ten minutes. 31-10.

I don't think anyone would have thought there was any way back for Llanelli but what happened next, in the space of 20 minutes, was incredible for some, *ie the Welsh, and a nightmare for us. I'm still trying to convince myself that we lost this game. Sitting there on Monday in the dressing-room along with the rest of my temamates, coaches and President, for a team meeting, the thought remained that it was less about Llanelli winning and more about Toulouse losing. This is the ambiguous part.

Questions need to be answered and at the moment this is what we are trying to do. The pressure is on because losing and going out at the pool stages is new territory for Toulouse and, as usual, the media are watching and waiting for a good old-fashioned guillotine. Whose head should roll? (I'll probably be one of them for not getting over for that last try.)

With the score at 34-all, they brought me on. They had just drawn level when they kicked the ball ahead, one of them tackled Cedric Haymans without the ball just as he was about to ground it for a 22 metre drop out, before another fella followed up to touch the ball down. First of all for the referee to miss it, then the touchjudge to miss it, and then the video ref not to pick up on it, was incredible. I'm beginning to get paranoid about some of the decisions going against us.

We went back upfield and I took a crash ball off Jean-Baptiste Elissalde. I'm convinced I grounded the ball before I was held up over the line. Our forwards coach, Serge Lairle, who knows everything and anything about rugby, is also convinced I was over the line and grounded the ball. It doesn't matter what part of the body you get it down with once you have downward pressure. I was on my back and facing upwards but I had the ball under my arm. It was a pity. A try then could have meant a different result. It just wasn't meant to be. From a five metre scrum Gaffie du Toit missed a drop goal, they cleared their lines, came downfield and scored a try. 34-41.

We could have won both games. Talking to Llanelli supporters in the bar afterwards, they admitted they only travelled over with the hope of getting a bonus point, and that at half-time they'd given up on that. They were as amazed as anyone.

It was Vince Lombardi, the godfather of American Football coaches with the Green Bay Packers during a seven-year stretch when they won five NFL titles and two Super Bowls in a seven-year stretch, who said that "the pressures of losing are awful, it kills you eventually, but the pressures of winning are even worse. Infinitely worse, because it keeps on torturing you and torturing you."

I suppose you could compare him to Guy Noves and what he has done in a 13-year stretch at Toulouse during which Stade have won three European Cups and eight French Championships.

The pressure in the club at the moment is enormous, for players, coaches and staff alike. As a player going in to train over the last few days, it's like walking into a pressure oven ready to explode. So many things happened in the last 20 minutes of that game that questions are still being asked, and not just within the club.

On Tuesday I set off to work, came round the corner and came to a police checkpoint. Thankfully I had my mobile phone on speaker when talking to a friend and I also had my seatbelt on, something I've been caught for a few times. I knew that the first policeman recognised me as he told me to pull my jeep in.

I pulled down my window and about five police came over and got me out of the jeep. "What's the problem lads?"

"Ah nothing. Everything's okay. We just want to know what happened on Saturday?"

"I wish I knew," I tell them, and everybody else who has been asking me for the last few days.

They asked me: "Did you think you got that try?"

"Well, I think so," I say.

There was no anger or animosity, just pure shock everywhere. No-one can believe it, understand it, or explain it.

"We just stopped you to let you down that all the police in Toulouse are behind you and we hope you go on and win the Bouclier." They had been stopping every second car but now everybody else was being let through. The other drivers must have been delighted.

We lie fifth, just outside the semi-final play-off positions, and we now play the champions Biarritz away on Saturday at 9pm. We'll probably get home early in the morning on Christmas Eve. Then we're off until January 2nd, before we play Perpignan at home the following Friday, the 5th, before playing the leaders Stade Francais away in Paris. Clermont Auvergne, currently second, follow at home. We've a very tough run of matches now.

This is my last column for The Irish Times for 2006 so I would like to thank you all for again sharing my fifth year with me in Toulouse. They have been wonderful years, and I couldn't have dared to predict all that has happened. Reaching three European Cup finals, winning two of them, two French finals, one French semi-final and one European quarter-final, it's been fantastic.

My only concern now is for The Fanatic. If I'm going to retire at the end of 2007, he's going to have to retire too and he's now looking for a son of rugby quality to adopt and support. If there are any takers out there, please contact thefanatic@hotmail.com. The successful applicant must have good physical credentials, hands like flypaper, pace and be part of a winning team. But the role comes with a Government Health Warning, not for him, but for them.

Joyeuse Noel et meilleurs voeux!

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Guest Tropico
Trevor Brennan's Diary - Issue 6

22 December 2006, 10:51 am

Our forwards coach, Serge Lairle, who knows everything and anything about rugby

Ca veut dire que c'est une pipe en anglais ? :whist:

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