|27th diamond helmet]Black Panthers of Thonon-les-Bains – Blue Stars of Marseille: 35-18
Three consecutive touchdowns to start this 27th diamond helmet, two after returning from the locker room, the Thononais did not miss their half-time starts to afford a 4th title of champion of France. On their stadium grounds Joseph Moynat, the Black Panthers were effective offensively, but also dominant in defense. Folding without breaking, the squad recovered 4 balls (1 fumble, 3 interceptions) at key moments, while putting constant pressure on quarterback Hadrien Lynda.
On the Marseille side, the step was too high against an experienced team. Spurred on by vocal fans throughout the game, the Blue Stars missed their first quarter, pushing them to take risks in the air in an attempt to come back. A losing choice, even if they were able to find the necessary resources to get their heads above water and offer a more attractive face for the rest of the meeting.
Thonon’s attack shows the way
Accustomed to high-stakes matches, the Black Panthers set the pace at the start of the game. Short passes, quick release of the ball, the Hauts Savoyards are progressing at a breakneck pace. The first three possessions all end in touchdowns. At the reception, Jack Pilkerton unlocks the counter. Imitated a few minutes later by Nicolas Khandar, which takes back all the Marseille defense at the end of a long distance race. Finally, Félix Durand closed this first quarter in the best possible way after a feigned game and a pass from Pilkerton (21-0).
For the Blue Stars, this first final at the highest national level is like a long way of the cross. Injuries, 3 and out, missed punt, all squads miss the event. And when the attack led by Hadrien Lynda finally manages to advance to find itself in a position to score, it is stopped by an interception. The trend finally manages to reverse itself in the last three minutes of the first half. A defensive stop gives the Marseillais a chance to come back before returning to the locker room. Lynda does not pass up the opportunity. He manages to find with some success Pedro Rosa, who remains focused to validate the touchdown of hope. Something to delight the noisy Marseille public, who came in large numbers to support their protégés (21-6).
The defense offers the title
The two teams answer each other blow for blow from the start of the 2nd act. Thonon resumed his march forward following another poor clearance. The quarterback Jose Tabora Jr. takes the game on his own and offers his team a 4th touchdown by returning to the end zone himself. Before the Hadrien Lynda-Pedro Rosa duo did it again following a ladle pass.
The Marseillais even think they can regain the momentum following an onside kick recovered in the opposing half of the field. Moment chosen by the defense of the Black Panthers to seal the fate of this 27th diamond helmet. First by recovering a fumble at the gates of their red zone. A loss of ball transformed into a touchdown by Liam Ward a few actions later (35-12). The icing on the cake, two interceptions from Noa Jaguenaud and Timon Debiez put an end to the slim chances of Marseille.
A final burst still allows the Phocaeans to make the defeat less severe in the last minutes. Following a rebound interception near the end zone, Gabriel Bisson scored the last points of the game. With 17 points in advance (35-18), Thonon is then content to scroll the last seconds by pressing on the ground. At stake, a new title of champion of France after that won in 2019 and an MVP trophy for José Tabora Jr. A high-flying performance that crowns a season where Larry Legault’s men have not experienced defeat on the national scene.
Cover photo: FFFA