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Gaining the Upper Hand

Pointing in to overcome opposition's defence


This is a scenario which occurs often during a match and can cause problems for the team attempting to gain a significant point advantage in a difficult situation.  However, through the use of advanced pointing techniques, it can be possible to overcome the opponent's defence and their efforts to prevent your team scoring a good number of points that end.

This is such a typical situation:

1. You have pointed your 1st boule in near the jack, say about 3 inches past.

2. Opponents decide to shoot your boule away and they shoot twice but miss, leaving their 2 boules live but at the far end of the playing lane

3. Opponents now choose to point in carefully, ensuring not to "go through" or nudging the jack closer to your boule.  They leave their boules in front of the jack and your holding boule.  This is an attempt to play defensively, set up a "defensive wall" to block your boules and prevent you from pointing in to the jack.

In this case, the opponent's defence is well placed, with all 4 boules in a horizontal line across the lane and about half a metre in front of the jack.  Therefore, your further attempts to point in could be thwarted by the obstacle and might even push one of their boules in to hold the point.  This is what the defending team is hoping for.

4.  Now you are left with 5 boules to play and holding just 1 point.  What do you do?

5.  Option a, take the one single point and don't play any further boules.  This would be a very negative and unambitious approach, giving up on scoring more points and a "big end."  Surely, you can't forego this chance to score more points!

Any player/team with ambition and confidence would take the risk and play on.

6. Option b, shoot the jack in an effort to knock it off the piste completely and score from "the boule in hand rule", or to relocate it to a more accessible spot.  This is risky, because remember that the other team has boules live further down the piste, which could come into play, and there's always the chance that you hit your own holding boule away!  So, you decide that shooting is too risky in this situation.

7. Option c, to point in either over or around the opponent's defence. 

This is what you decide to do, and use your advanced pointing skills of curving the line of delivery or pointing with a high lob to do so.

You are able to high lob and drop between the opponents wall and the jack, with your boule scoring.

You point to bend your boules path around the wall and onto the jack 

You successfully point in to win this end 6-0 from a difficult situation and the opponents are thoroughly devastated.  Well played.


The high lob point (plombee or portee):

This delivery may be made from a standing or squatting position, although it does need a little more energy and physical effort put into the throwing action.

It requires the boule to be released high (well above the head) and to be thrown very high.

It also need to impart a lot of backspin on the boule in order to allow the boule to stop once it hits the ground, hopefully resting in its own little hole.  From a high trajectory, the boule will drop to land almost vertically. 

Imparting sidespin:

Using sidespin on the boule enables the thrower to throw around any obstacle along the intended path, usually an opponent's boule between the throwing circle and the jack.

Sidespin is imparted to the boule by releasing the boule with the hand vertical, and the thumb highest or lowest, rather than the usual backspin throw with the hand horizontal.

It isn't necessary for the boule to be flicked from the fingers or the wrist tweaked as a spin bowler might do in cricket, but the simple vertical position of the hand, will be sufficient to send the boule off in a curving trajectory, after it lands.

Remember that whichever way the palm of the hand faces on release is the way the boule should curve.  So for a right handed player releasing the boule with palm facing towards his left and thumb uppermost, the boule will curve from right to left after landing.

The arm may not follow a straight arc of delivery or follow through for such a shot.

It's important to bear in mind that, as there's no backspin when playing this way, the boule will tend to run on after landing, and there's a tendency to point long and go through when playing sidespin shots.

One factor that can affect a player's ability to deliver a curving point, is the degree of friction of the terrain that day.

One of the first things I try out when arriving at the piste, is to test the degree of grip and spin which the surface allows.

This can vary due to type of surface and weather, so could vary at one venue during a tournament.

The high lob and sidespin points can be very effective in the player's armoury.  With practice they can be used confidently to great effect during a match, such as in the example given above.

Approaching a match:


Does the competition begin when the first legal jack has been thrown?

No! When meeting your opposition for the match, the competition begins directly both teams come together at the piste, and it's from this initial moment that you can make efforts to assert yourself over them as a purposeful team that means business and is well prepared for the contest to come. You can gain the psychological edge immediately if you're prepared to do so with the right approach to gamesmanship, and as many an experienced player will know, matches can be won or lost by what goes on in our heads as well as how the boules are played on the ground.

How can you do this? Follow a few basic steps as suggested here. However, these ideas may not be entirely exhaustive, and you experienced players out there may well have devised a few of your own which you have found help you to gain winning ways. It would be great if you could share any such ideas of your own.


1. Arrive at the piste punctually for the start of the match. Don't arrive too early and allow the

the opportunity to keep you waiting and gain the first initiative.

Neither should you allow them the chance to admonish you for arriving late of course!


2. Your team should be dressed as a team and look the part. Team uniform always helps to achieve that identity and "esprit de corps" that be a decisive factor.


3. Shake hands with oppos, look them in the eye, introduce yourselves if needed, offer polite greetings and best wishes for a good match.


4. One player in your team should be allocated the role of tossing the coin and should have a coin ready in hand; there should be no fumbling about in pockets to find one. I usually have a distinctive coin solely for this purpose.

By telling them they can call heads or tails, you've already taken control and the first step in gaining the initiative.

Should you be lucky enough to have the advantage of winning the toss, you will have something ready in hand to mark the circle if needed. Again, it is helpful to have an appropriate tool for this, rather than to have to go in search of any old twig etc. The player in your team who has the responsibility of throwing the jack, will have it in hand. Throw it down the piste and then purposefully walk down and mark its position. (in case it gets moved)


5. Stand together as a team and let the opponents play their first shot. They are now in the game and you've done all you can to make the right start.


6. Should any measuring be required during a match, which is extremely likely, then at least one player in your team, should be ready with a tool for this. It shows you are organized and prepared. Remember that, even when the oppos may have measured, you are within your rights to re-measure. Of course, it always helps to do this after a polite word, indicating that your re-measure isn't due to any distrust!


7. An entirely alternative approach, which I must admit to using on occasion, is where you purposely attempt to give the opposition the impression that you are rather inexperienced and ill prepared for the match. You can do so at times when playing opponents you haven't met before. Perhaps you don't have all your kit ready to begin and do fumble around on purpose. The opponent may then feel he's in for an easy win, and may take his competitive foot of the pedal. You're then in the position to gain the upper hand by surprise once play begins in earnest!

We all know how relaxing when you feel you can win without maintaining your best, can lead to mishaps and miscalculation, and it's very pleasing to see an opponent who feels he's lost due to his own fault in this way. (all's fair in the heat of the contest)


Best wishes to all you match players. I hope this helps you to think about how to prepare for the contest and to gain the upper hand over your opponent.


Chris Garratt

Gt Western Region Regional Coach Coordinator

Bath Grand Cru Petanque Club


Chris is an experienced and well-qualified coach in a number of sports.

As an ex-PE teacher and sports lecturer, he is able to usefully draw on relevant commonalities from other sports when playing and coaching Petanque.

This is Chris's second term as GWR Coach Coordinator and is hoping to support and cooperate with other coaches in the region, and to develop useful relations with those outside GWR, in order to progress and raise the level of coaching and matchplay within GWR Petanque.

Being a recent addition to the England Youth Coaching Team, has enabled Chris to gain insight into coaching and team managing at this level.

He is always ready to discuss any aspect of play and coaching and help with answering your queries. He'll be pleased to hear from you.

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