It was a great joy to play our favorite game on gravel terrains in a park made lush by thick lawn, and dense beds of well tended plants, all under cover of mature platanes (London Plane trees) pruned American style, for height and canopy.
This past weekend's WCQT, to determine the team to represent the U.S. and the FPUSA in the next World Championships, was impeccably organized by Ernesto Santos and Steve Ginsberg of La Boule New Yorkaise with a lot of help from their fellow club members.
The draw for the initial games began last Saturday morning (Sep 27) while players comprising the 14 triplette teams from around the country (California, Maine, Florida, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Washington) munched French pastries, bought souvenir shirts, and made decisions on how best to play in the rain, just a t-shirt because it was warm, or with rain gear because of the intermittent drizzle.
On Sunday, under better skies, but with one little soaker of a rain about mid-morning, pool play commenced. A team needed two wins for a spot in the finals and by mid-afternoon, we had our match ups.
The rains had caused the usually "hard as a rock" terrain to be a mix of soft and firm spots, making it difficult for pointers to read the landing spots for plombées, and continuing the maddening (for shooters) tendency for boules to bound away harmlessly unless they first hit steel. A shot boule touching the ground first, inevitably was a wasted ball. And, it was difficult for pointers to get both their boules "in the game" because of the variability of the wet ground.
In the semi-finals then, It was Alec Stone Sweet, Richard "Ti" Meas,(both of LBNY) and PJ Mallette (VOMPC) against Andre Strong, Mia Kanazawa, and Mark Kindschi(all Maine Boules Club), and Jean-Pierre Subrenat, Xavier Thibaud, and Eric Bertin (all LBNY) against Peter Mathis (VOMPC), Juan Garcia, and Mamary Coulibaly, (both of Boca Petanque).
After this round of games, the final was to be between Alec, Ti, and PJ and Jean-Pierre, Xavier and Eric. The other two teams, Andre, Mia, and Mark, and Peter, Juan, and Mamary, both won third place bronze medals after a decision earlier this year to do away with another match to determine 3rd and 4th places. Peter's team won the coin toss to be third in line for players to fill in for the next "worlds" if enough players in the first two teams are unable to attend.
The final was, by all accounts, one of the best matches seen in years. The club's usual practice terrain was converted to the Carré d'Honneur, since it had not been used in the concours and was therefore, neutral, conferring equal challenge to both teams.
Spectators gathered on chairs and benches, talking ceased, and the jack was tossed out to begin the match.
It began with soaring plombées from Alec, and equally effective lofts from Jean-Pierre, who seemed to add a little twist on his points. Even so, it was not unusual to see what looked to be a perfectly launched boule land short, or go rolling past the cochonnet. Yet often enough, the repeat toss went right to the jack and rested against it.
When Ti connected one of his shots, it was a delight to behold, propelled out of his hand, his boule followed a fast and flat trajectory to its mark, causing a loud "crack" with one or both boules coming to rest many feet away. Eric, on the other hand, tended to shoot with a higher arc and it usually hit its mark, though as the game progressed, Xavier took on more of the shooting for his team. PJ did double duty with very high and effective plombées and hard fast shots.
After Alec, Ti, and PJ pulled ahead to a 7-3 lead, Jean-Pierre, Xavier, and Eric began to find their game. In a few short ends though, it was 12-7 for Alec's team. But in the next end, Jean-Pierre's team found themselves with the point and the other team out of boules. All of Alec's, Ti's and PJ's boules were clustered in front of that point, and the back was open country.
A concerted effort from Jean-Pierre, Xavier, and Eric, then began, trying to move the jack back into open ground where the rest of their boules could more easily be tossed in to give them a 12-13 victory.
But, boule after boule was rolled, and plombéed at the cochonnet, and while they were all close, the jack was not to be budged. So it became 12-8, still for Alec, Ti, and PJ.
One might say a second game now began, very tense, lots of pressure, with both teams making spectacular plays and points, always followed by applause from spectators, and it was quickly 12-12, with the last end about to decide the winners.
It began with a good point, then another, then a shot missed, a jack moved, more attempts at the point, finally there was a point from Jean-Pierre deflected at the last second by a piece of half-buried paper but coming to rest just in front and a centimeter or two farther away from the jack than Alec's boule.
Now, there were two boules very close together, both inches from the jack, the one behind belonging to Alec's team and holding the point. Another shot was attempted by Xavier at this back boule without success. Eleven boules had been played but everyone's attention was fixed on those two by the jack. There was game on the ground unless the boule that remained, the one resting in Eric's hand could make it different.
The eternal question was in the air, shoot or point? Eric went into a crouch to point and released his boule smoothly and forcefully, it dropped and rolled deliberately toward the jack, passed between it and the other boules and continued on its way, but as it passed, it clipped the back boule, pushing it farther from the jack. The game was over!
Spectators were out of their seats, hands were being grasped, players embraced, some players teared up.
The winning team, and the one to represent the FPUSA in the next World Games, is Jean-Pierre Subrenat, Xavier Thibaud, and Eric Bertin. Our hearty congratulations to both teams for such a good game, and our best wishes to the winners for a successful "Worlds".
Here is the scoring line duly recorded by Ernesto: 2-0, 2-3, null, 7-3, 7-4, 7-5, 7-6, 7-7, 8-7, 10-7, 12-7, 12-8, 12-10, 12-12, 12-13.
At the Awards Dinner celebration at the nearby Saju Bistro restaurant, players were treated to a complimentary pastis from LBNY, and a most excellent meal of tasty entree's followed by a short ceremony of medals and prizes awards.
( the boys from LBNY get their medals)
Here is a Link to more Pictures of the Tournament.