Marcos Young, author of the first two tries, advances with the ball, despite the tackle by Félix Branca;  behind, the support of Pisani

“Never underestimate the heart of a champion”. The phrase of the legendary Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich fits CUBA perfectly. In a moving display of intensity, he beat Newman from start to finish, who was leading, undefeated and had won every game comfortably.

In their best match of the season, CUBA showed off their title as defending champion and overcame Newman to win 39-25, a match that was defined long before the 80th minute and in which only two tries from Bordó in the last two minutes prevented it from being classified as a win, in addition to stealing the bonus point. The defense and the scrum explain the superiority from the tactical point of view, but the biggest difference was in the attitude, in the greater momentum that he spread by throwing himself to the ground in each loose ball, in sending the opponent back in each tackle, in capitalizing on each one of his offensive incursions, in not giving up any game action.

Marcos Young, author of the first two tries, advances with the ball, despite the tackle by Félix Branca; behind, the support of PisaniLANACION/Santiago Filipuzzi

“We played a great game. It is an enormous growth with respect to what we had been playing. We took a step up this ladder”, celebrated the eighth Benito Ortiz de Rosas, one of the figures of CUBA. “Before the game we had talked about running more, neutralizing Newman in contact, not letting [Gonzalo] Gutierrez Taboada. I think we made a wall and we never let Newman play his game.”

CUBA did not arrive well on this eighth date. At the beginning of the Top 13 of the URBA, they had lost to SIC and Alumni and had barely beaten Pucará and CASI by one point. The game was far from the one that had taken them to the top last season. Yesterday, on a beautiful afternoon on his field in Villa de Mayo, he gave his fans a demanding performance (and they returned it with a contagious breath), which allows him to hope that the bi-championship is possible. There is still a long way to go, but playing with that heart, anything is possible.

CUBA planted the flag from the start. In the first action of the match, winger Marcos Young blocked a clearance from Juan Bautista Daireaux and supported the first try of the match. 7-0 from the locker room. In total, there were five conquests by Universitario, none the product of continuous play: there was another by Young who captured the rebound from a missed penalty, a try-penalty in a scrum, an interception from the entire field by Benjamín Gutiérrez Meabe (author of 25 points) and, in the only conquest of a clearly offensive play, another try by the fullback in a first phase play after a scrum, more attributable to individual virtue and defensive failures than to a collective action.

This, far from being a defect, reflects the concentration and focus with which CUBA played almost the entire game. He was a little late at the end, and that cost him the bonus point: two tries from Newman in the last two minutes that are not enough to overshadow the brilliant performance.

Every time Newman wanted to get up, he collided with the wall that CUBA opposed him. In addition, the visitor had an afternoon to forget in the line-out and was submitted in the scrum. Fixed formations had been a strong point for Newman and a big improvement on 2021, but yesterday they took a step back in that regard. Nor was Scooby Gutiérrez Taboda’s full house enough: goal, penalty, drop and try (15 points). Only in the second half of the first half was he able to impose conditions, but it was barely enough to add 10 points.

The fight on the floor: Marcos Young (CUBA) and Tomás Keena (Newman) experienced it with great intensity
The fight on the floor: Marcos Young (CUBA) and Tomás Keena (Newman) experienced it with great intensityLANACION/Santiago Filipuzzi

“We hurt them in the fixed formations, and from there we touched their DNA, we got into their heads,” Ortiz de Rosas continued.

The psychological factor, although none wanted to admit it, will have played its part. The semifinal of last December is still fresh, when Newman arrived as a favorite but CUBA won 16-15 with a converted try in the last play. “With Newman there are always nice games. For us it was important because they were leading and undefeated, to have beaten them is crazy”, clarified the young 23-year-old Young. “It is a long championship and for us this is one more step to continue growing and gives us a lot of confidence to continue focused on the goal of qualifying for the playoffs.”

CUBA's celebration reflected in Marcos Young's embrace with Devoto, Newman's disappointment
CUBA’s celebration reflected in Marcos Young’s embrace with Devoto, Newman’s disappointmentLANACION/Santiago Filipuzzi

In the second round of the 1995 NBA playoffs, Hakeem Olajuwon’s defending champion Houston Rockets fell 3-1 to Charles Barkley’s Phoenix Suns. He turned it around, on the way to the bi-championship. It was then that Rudy T said the famous phrase about him. CUBA made it its own. Whoever underestimates them will pay the consequences.

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