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Santino "try" Rigal

Unknown 9Z Team eliminates Vitality from BLAST Premier Showdown

The unknown 9z Team managed to eliminate Vitality in the first round of the BLAST Premier Showdown, in what is likely Cédric "RpK" Guipouy's final game withthe French team.

9Z, a team that qualified for the Showdown through the South American qualifier, was marked as the heavy underdog going into the series. To make things worse, the team was forced to play with Rajohn "easTor" Linato as a stand-in. 

Vitality seemed to be in control of the game on the first map, as it comfortably won 9z's Nuke map pick. It was in-game leader Dan "apEX" Madesclaire who showed his team the way, as he topped the charts at the end of the map. 

Going into the second map, Vitality seemed set to win the series in a comfortable 2-0 fashion. 9z had not played Overpass much recently, and even against weaker South American opponents the team only had a 25% winrate.

The first half went as expected. 9z got a small lead on the favored CT side and reached halftime with 9 rounds to its name. 

But Vitality failed to close out the game and as its defense fell flat, 9Z took advantage by extending its lead to a surprise victory. Pushing the series to a third map was already surprising, but 9Z went above and beyond that. They crushed Vitality to start off the third map and took an unexpected 9-0 lead. Vitality looked stunned and disorganized but eventually managed to gather themselves.

In what looked like the start of a historic comeback, the Frenchmen closed the gap. At 13-10, they had won eight maps in a row and were in control of the economy. But thanks to some incredible heroics by Santino "try" Rigal, 9z did the unthinkable and won the map. Vitality is eliminated from the BLAST Premier Spring Showdown, and 9Z will get the chance to continue the dream run in the next round against Heroic.

This is also a devastating blow for Vitality and an unfortunate end to RpK's run with the team. The team has suffered early eliminations in a string of events and while this could partially be explained away by the consistently stiff competition, a loss to a little-known 9z squad shows that Vitality has some deep problems right now. The team is set to replace RpK with Jason "Kyojin" Nguyen moving forward, but only time will tell if that's enough to get the team back on top.

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