Late in the evening of a bone chilling Sunday in early March at Pen-y-Lan, The Wheatsheaf PC qualified to represent Wales in The EuroCup for Clubs for 2013. We took up the challenge and were drawn to play in Metz against winning clubs from France, Germany, Hungary and Latvia over the weekend 26th to 28th July, with the top three teams going through, the third being a nominated host, to the second round. A team of eight: Roger and Judith Morgan; Steve and Jill Brace; Jim and Linda Hutchinson; Basil White and Colin Sweet, together with Colin’s wife and two friends set off in three cars to make the 1,000 mile round trip. We left Newport on Thursday 25th July at 05.00 to drive to Dover to catch the 10.00 ferry to Dunkirk. After a smooth 2 hour crossing, we drove through Belgium and Luxembourg before dropping back down into France for the final stint into Metz itself. Going from Luxembourg into France we were only a few kilometers from the point at which the borders of France, Germany and Luxembourg meet at Schengen, which is now a byword for free cross-border travel between EU countries in mainland Europe.
The temperature during the journey was in the mid to high 20’s, which was a far cry from those on qualifying, but still only a taste of what was to come from the weather. After settling in at the hotel on the northern outskirts, we set off to find the host club. Despite some false starts we arrived and had some practice on the outdoor pistes. As we were the only visiting team to turn up on the evening, we were made very welcome by the club members and enjoyed the snacks which they had lain on, together with a few drinks from their club bar.
When we saw the draw, it was fairly clear that on past form France would come first and Germany second, with third place up for grabs between the other three of us. Play started on Friday afternoon with France against Hungary and Germany v Wales. Both ties, consisting of two triples and three doubles, went to form by 5-0 margins. Latvia had a bye and were nowhere to be seen. A meal of cold meats, cheese and French stick was provided by the host club. As we were the only team to stay on for this, there was plenty of it! A few drinks and some melee games with club members made for a very enjoyable evening.
The Wheatsheaf had their bye on Saturday morning while France played Germany and Hungary took on Latvia. This gave us the opportunity to do some sightseeing before returning to the pistes to weigh up our main opponents playing their doubles matches. Hungary and Latvia had each won one triple. Each won a doubles match easily and the decisive last match was narrowly won 13-11 by Latvia who therefore took the tie 3-2, despite scoring five points less. Germany won one of their doubles, but France won the tie overall 4-1.
After a lunch break came our first crunch tie against Hungary, to be played in temperatures of around 35oC. The triple of Basil, Colin and Jim won the first game to finish 13-10. After a long hard battle Roger, Steve and Jill narrowly lost 11-13. Basil and Jill won the first double 13-12, while Linda and Jim lost 11-13. This meant that the tie was decided by the final double in which, after a very long hard game, Roger and Steve won 13-10 to give victory to the Wheatsheaf by 3-2 – Job half done! While this was going on, France were thrashing Latvia 5-0, dropping only 8 points over the five games.
Now it was our turn to face France and the inevitable hammering. This duly came in double quick time with a loss of only 5 points over the five games. However, only one fanny was sustained and they know who they were! Steve and Jill both drew applause from the 50 or so crowd for carreaus and sustained accurate pointing during their games. The French players had only two types of shot on their home very rough terrain, boule to boule shots – about 70% carreaus, and a very high point with so much spin that boules stuck to their landing spot spinning for a few seconds after landing, a shot they learn from a very early age! Germany dispatched Latvia in similar fashion, dropping only 7 points. After a couple of drinks at the club, we returned to the hotel for much needed showers and a very pleasant meal in the courtyard. Unfortunately, there were lots of insects in the area also having a pleasant meal – us! The evening came to a sudden end when a mini whirlwind arrived, followed soon after by a thunder storm with torrential rain.
The storm continued into the night and started again after breakfast. We arrived at the club complete with full wet weather gear to find that play had been switched to the club’s indoor bouledrome. Thus the climax of our weekend was played out indoors to the Wagnerian accompaniment of thunder and rain hammering down on the tin roof.
Our triples were drawn with Latvia: Roger, Steve and Jill winning 13-11 and Basil, Colin and Jim losing 10-13, despite having a 9-3 lead at one point! Jim and Judith lost their double 5-13 and, after a hard fight, Basil and Jill lost 9-13. Another long game resulted in a win for Steve and Roger 13-10, but sadly the tie was lost 2-3 and Latvia finished third and will host a second round tie with Monaco and Sweden travelling to them – ah, what might have been!
Germany beat Hungary 5-0, giving a final scorecard of:-
||La Ronde Petanque de Metz
It had stopped raining by now and after a consoling drink and wishing our new French friends au revoir, we returned to the hotel and on into Metz for the evening. Metz is a typical beautiful French city with a cathedral, squares filled with cafes and restaurants and large public gardens. Set on the Moselle and Seille rivers and a canal system, you are never far from a bridge! A very nice touch was the temporary boules pistes set up in some of the squares for anyone to play on.
The return journey was almost without incident, the exception being a thunder storm with torrential rain causing flash flooding while we were in a motorway services on the M4. Overall it was a hard but very enjoyable weekend. For the third time The Wheatsheaf won a tie, and almost repeated the success of 2010 in progressing to the second round.
Wheatsheaf Petanque Club