BLOOD, GUTS, AND A LITTLE SKILL.
Lundi 27 Août 2012
All was set for an enthralling encounter, Montpellier their first home game of the season and Championship contenders Clermont who successfully denied Bayonne of a victory last week (6-13) away from home. A 18.30 KO. gave the players the chance to take advantage of the slightly cooler evening, well at least it was not 40° as of last weekend in Paris.
The crowd was excellent for the first home game of the season 13,477, but the wind blowing down the pitch was always going to be a problem, the first half Montpellier had the wind on their backs, whether they could keep Clermont at bay in the 2nd half, was to be seen. Although mistakes were plentiful from both teams the game was intense with some big hits going in all over the park, the man in the middle was not at all lenient controlling the scrums where penalties were flowing fast and furious, luckily for Montpellier Parra and James who replaced David Skrela after only 7 mins, had forgotten their kicking boots and missed 3 relatively easy penalty kicks. The first score on the board was from Francois Trinh- Duc with a timely drop goal to give the home side an early lead but it was quickly wiped out by Clermont, who had the advantage of attacking against 14 as Matt Carraro was given 10 mins in the cooler for a high tackle. Playing against Clermont is never dull and after 33 mins an attack by Clermont down the wing saw Rougerie serve Forfana on a plate for the first try of the match the conversion was missed. Montpellier had played well and hardly deserved their misfortunes but that is top level sport and concentration for 80 mins is necessary, it was then Clermont’s turn to switch off the grey matter a couple of wild passes in their own 22mts, some solid anticipation by the young Pierre Berard who intercepted and scampered the 20mts to score under the sticks, the conversion was a formality for Paillaugue. Shortly afterwards the Ref whistled for the pause 10-5 to the home side.
The second half was an affair of big hits and yellow cards 2 for Clermont in a matter of mins, Cudmore had only been on the park 60 seconds when he decided to shoulder charge Mamuka Gorgodze and winger Sivivatu got the other for flooring Paillaugue after an excellent break. Other than that there was very little scoring, a penalty for both sides, one from Benoit Paillaugue who played his heart out all game this “Little Big Man” gives his all every time he is on the park, weighing in at just about 74kgs he never takes a step backwards and tackles like a demon if they were to bottle his spirit and courage it would be worth a small fortune, in fact his weight in gold! A couple of mighty big scares for Montpellier as they were left in the hands of the video ref twice in the last 10 mins as Clermont went over the line, but the answer both times was a resolute NO!! and Montpellier survived both accounts. Clermont were awarded a penalty after the siren had sounded and decided that the defensive bonus point was all they were going to get today and James kicked the penalty from in front of the posts, the ref brought the game to a close with Montpellier coming out winners by 13-8.
The courage and tenacity of the Montpellier defence was superb with everyone putting their bodies on the line to keep Clermont at bay, the more experienced and slightly older forwards Drikus Hancke, Remy Martin and Thibault Privat all showed that their careers are by no means over and set a perfect example to the younger guys on how to defend countless times in the last 10mins, but it takes a whole team and not just a few individuals to earn a victory, after last weeks dismal performance against Stade Francais, Montpellier put themselves back in contention and did absolutely no harm to the moral and team spirit with a deserved victory.
Montpellier is at home to Agen again next Saturday the 2nd Sept. KO. 18.30 another fine opportunity to climb up that TOP 14 table.
Pitch side interview with Matt Carraro, Montpellier’s new Australian Centre signing.
Steve Whittell: Tough first home game for you ?
Matthew Carraro: Definitely they do not come harder than that, what a baptism into the TOP 14, but the whole team fought for each other and we probably won that game on our defence alone. There was a massive amount of pressure on us especially in the last 10 mins with 2 video calls from the ref but the boys stuck to their task well and we got the result we needed and a vastly improved performance from last week.
SW. Everybody looks fairly shattered?
MC: There will be a lot of aching bodies tomorrow morning, the guys but everything on the line to keep Clermont from scoring, the forwards were magnificent in their defending and the team spirit was raised a couple of notches after last weekend, this season looks like there will be an awful lot of tough games so we really do have to put in the work load and get the results especially at home, but still go looking for points away from home as well.
SW: Not far of a full house today, what did you thing to your first game in the stadium and the atmosphere?
MC: Fantastic the crowd really got behind us and kept us thinking positive, they played their part today as the 16th man. They were making noise when it was needed and that is always very encouraging when you are a player on the park . We are all in this together whether it be player or supporter.
SW: A little different from Bath, not quite so Ra Ra.?
MC: I just loved it, lets have more of this, as an Aussie we love the big crowds and if the supporters keep behind us all season in the same manner it will be a massive help to the whole team. From what I have seen so far and that’s not that much, everybody and everything is just great.
SW: Cheers Matt, go and get that beer you deserve and well played.
Interview by Steve Whittell.