10 minutes of pure christmas magic !
We are now at the half way stage of this season’s TOP 14, Montpellier playing their Christmas game v Lyon, if they win and La Rochelle lose at Bordeaux then Montpellier become Autumn Champions for the very first time in their TOP 14 existence. A very good crowd of 11.600 was present on a very chilly evening with little wind the pitch in excellent condition was prepared for a fast running game of rugby and both teams are renowned for their speed and agility. A last minute change for Montpellier Henri Immelman injured himself during the warm up and this promoted Jimmy Nagusa onto the wing with Benji Fall taking the 15 spot and Gabi Ngandebe going onto the bench, a little upsetting for the team but this happens.
First on the score board was Lyon, a penalty sent into touch and yes that man Puricelli caught and the pack drove just short of the line the ball came out and Gill forced himself over, Pelissie added the extras 0-7. Montpellier were trying their level best to get level but not everything was going to plan, after a stretcher injury to Jacques Du Plessis who looked to be in real pain, Montpellier continues to put pressure on the Lyon defence but for the moment were not rewarded. Francois Steyn was not having a great day with the boot missing several kicks throughout the match, normally very accurate and some of his open play kicking was slightly negative. However after good work from Benoit Paillaugue near the line Louis Picamoles went over for Montpellier’s first try of the game, the conversion was missed 5-7, minutes later Benoit Paillaugue missed a penalty chance, the boot was not working well for Montpellier. In the 35min. Montpellier found touch from a penalty Picamoles gathered and forced his body over the line for his second try of the game, again the conversion was missed 10-7, both teams had their chances but there were no more scores before half time and the ref blew for the break with Montpellier just in front 10-7. The second half started at beak neck speed, ruck on the 22 and Jimmy Nagusa last man in collected the ball and went straight through the ruck to run in a very good score, Francois Steyn added the extras 17-7 to the hosts.
Lyon replied minutes later Halahifi collected from a ruck and Regard broke the defence to go over, Pelissie added the extras 17-14 to Montpellier, Harris added a penalty to level the scores 17-17. The next 20 mins. saw both sides trying to win this game but both defences held and this game looked to be going to a draw. The 70th minute and only 10mins left on the clock, Montpellier produced that Christmas Magic, first Francois Steyn who was having a mare of a game, left the starting blocks, slalomed around half the opposition team and gave the perfect pass to Jimmy Nagusa to go over, Paillaugue added the extras 24-17. Again Francois Steyn, this time he breaks 3 tackles and a kick pass for Jimmy Nagusa he collects and over he goes Hat Trick for Jimmy, the extras were added by The Little Big Man. 31-17, and the bonus point in the pocket.
The festival continue with Joe Tomane going over for the last and the 6th Montpellier try, he even converted his own try, his first in around 6/7 years. Finally the ref blew for full time, 38-17 an incredible last 8 minutes where Montpellier could have lost this game but after a very frustrated 60 mins. Francois Steyn showed why he is World Class This guy gives his all every game and sometimes the perfection he seeks does not happen but he turned a game around with pure skill and ability, with of course a little help from his team mates.
Montpellier is Autumn Champions with a 3 pts. lead in front of La Rochelle but this does not excuse the attitude of many so called supporters (spectators) who hissed booed and whistled negativity at Francois Steyn in his not great moments throughout the first hour of the game. Montpellier is a great team and could go far but they need to have great support behind them to push them to their limits, excellent example La Rochelle, Clermont this shameful negativity must be stopped as from today it produces absolutely nothing!!!.
Next game Saturday 30th Dec, away to Brive KO. 18.00 enjoy Christmas with friends and families, and next home game Jan 6th 2018 v Stade Francais, KO 20.45.
MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL…….