The level is very high, this Tuesday morning. The team composed of Tierno, Quintais and Suchaud qualified for the round of 16 after a 13-10 victory. A match made in 18 ends against the team of Philipson, Fournier and Garibian who did not let themselves go.
The game begins even before the gong sounds in Borély Park. A sunny pitch in front of the web TV and the public in the stands. Squatting, Philippe Quintais rushes but the Corsican Kévin Philipson takes the lead: 1-0 for the white team with flocked t-shirts “The Garlaban swimming pool”.
“Make room!” launches Marc Tierno to Philippe Suchaud, who runs with a diamond. “That’s a war machine!” enthuses a pair of supporters seated next to me. “Robots” or “Superman”. Superlatives abound to describe the duo of “Philip” now based in Fréjus, multiple world champions and holders of the greatest number of world titles (14), all sports combined.
“We are used to seeing Quintais and Suchaud on TV, but seeing them in person is spectacular!” tell the story of the two amateur pétanque players from Carcassonne. They were eliminated on the first day of La Marseillaise. “We went back and forth” joke Edouard and Christian. The reds regain the upper hand at the second end. 2-1.
“AIE Aie Aie”. At the start of lead 3, the supporters grimaced after a bad action by Tierno, immediately caught by Quintais who made a bottle. “It’s Monsieur Pétanque!” loose Edouard, a blue straw hat covering his white hair. “They were born with balls in their hands, it’s not possible” chuckled Christian, his T-shirt rolled up like a tank top.
Opposite, Philipson, with the stature of a security guard, reacts. He drowns the cork by making a square on the hand. The lead is cancelled.
The next lead, white takes the lead (3-2). The shooter Romain Fournier, originally from Lyon, made a diamond then a bottle in stride to recover the points, after a good action by Suchaud who had played a difficult boule.
The duo of Occitanie supporters are impressed: “In front, it really holds up!” But that’s not enough. To decide the point, the referee takes out his meter. “What’s the score?” shouts a woman in the audience. The sun is already starting to beat down, it’s only 9:30 am. And the lead 5 ends in a 4-3 for the reds.
Tierno points his ball. It was not until the second shot that the shooter opposite made a diamond. The teammate of Quintais and Suchaud launches again. But the pointer opposite, alias “JP” the Marseille dean of the white team, is closer to the cap. A ball immediately won over by Suchaud.
“Ah how do you want to compete! He goes diamond on diamond and even with square balls, he would succeed!” gets carried away Christian. 6-3 for the Tierno triplet. “They will fly away” calls out Edouard, to my right, constantly interrupted by his ringing telephone.
Kévin Philipson touches the ball and the jack at the same time and ejects them against the railing which delimits the sandy ground. End 7 is canceled, to applause.
We then begin the end 8. “Ihe never misses” says Renaud, a spectator who arrives just as Suchaud is about to throw. The Carcassonne residents confirm: “Ah yes, it engages!”
A cap on his head, the Marseille supporter on my left continues: “It’s a big game. If you make it until Tuesday morning, you have to be very strong already!”
“Come on, make a nice Roman shot” encourages Philipson. It’s a tile. But there are still two balls left on the red side. And, at this level of competition, gifts are rare. Suchaud and Quintais position their balls and win the bet. “What planet do they live on?” asks Christian, in a blue T-shirt. End of the lead 8, the world champions unroll 8 to 3.
“Come on JP, it’s time!” loose the captain of the opposing team to support his pointer Jean-Pierre Garibian. “It’s starting to heat up” blows the audience. Philipson misses his shot. Fournier sighs and brings his ball closer.
The stands are overflowing and the field is surrounded by supporters. As white had three balls to one, they lost the point. “If you don’t take the advantage of the points against Quintais, you’re screwed” balances Renaud, amateur pétanque player, in a low voice. The gap widens: 10-3 in the ninth lead.
End 10 is exhilarating: JP almost jams. Suchaud shoots for a diamond and moves the jack at the same time towards his ball. Two points at once, the public is in a trance! Philipson responds with a diamond on the spot. “She’s beautiful there!” blows the viewer.
But, in the next action, luck or real talent, Suchaud hits the cork again towards his ball, making a square. While the Marseilles Jean-Pierre throws a ball a little too short, his teammate from Ajaccio makes square on that of Suchaud. White recovers two points (10-5).
“There, it doesn’t smell good” worries Renaud after two medium shots from JP. “You have to shoot the ball” esteemed Edward. And it does not fall on deaf ears: Philipson succeeds in his master stroke and cancels the lead by taking out the jack. The captain and his pointer hug each other, a broad smile on their lips. It’s relief.
At the start of the lead 12, JP Garibian bites on the circle and takes a yellow card. The public boos the referee. And Suchaud, for the first time in the game, misses his diamond. 10 to 6 for the reds.
The level is high, the tension is building. Some spectators, at the top of the stands, are annoyed not to see the game well because of a crowd in front. Suchaud misses his diamond a second time but the red team wins both points: 12 to 6 for the lead 13.
The white triplet approaches to exchange a few low masses. They have two balls left to play to show their cards. Fournier makes square. “Come on my chiquet” he argues as JP rushes forward. If he pushes their two front balls, he can earn 4 points for his team. Missed: This will be an additional point only. 12-7.
But the Marseille pointer catches up with the following lead: he almost makes a stopper and the public whistles him to congratulate him. Followed by a very nice diamond from Kévin Philipson which moves the jack at the same time. “They shoot well and have to make a square to bother them in front” analyzes Renaud, in the audience. Suchaud responds with a diamond on the spot. Philipson outbids, too.
“It’s an excellent level, you have a good report there” Edward smiled. Quintais, a gold chain around his neck, misses two balls in a row. Rare thing. And the opposite team catch up 12 to 9.
At the start of lead 16, Tierno, chewing gum in his mouth and glasses on his nose, made two good throws. But the lead is canceled by the Corsican captain.
JP throws too far. Tierno, he brings his ball closer. Philipson responds with a square on the spot, immediately ejected by Suchaud. Both teams laugh and congratulate each other indirectly. The suspense continues: 12 to 10.
Tierno makes a stopper by kissing the piglet for several centimeters. And it was during the end of 18 that the reds won their victory 13-10 after a high level match.
Kisses and a friendly handshake, the two teams greet each other. “We did our best against “Philippe” and it’s a benchmark game worthy of La Marseillaise, with sportsmanship and respect above all!” concludes Romain Fournie, with a smile.