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Challenge Vaquerin: Montpellier vs Clermont.

Lundi 04 Août 2014
Montpellier opened the debate this Friday evening for the 21st Challenge Vaquerin and the opposition was Clermont, a little different this year as there were only French teams present, no representation from across the Channel which is most unusual and there is normally a Harlequins, Leicester, or even Sale, all have made there presence clear in previous years. A massive thunderstorm was moving all around St Affrique but somehow it managed to stay dry for the rugby but the evening was hot and humid,  the crowd local and holidaymakers were out in excellent numbers probably an all time best attendance for this one match of the opening Gala evening.
 
Clermont came with a very strong squad which included new signings Camille Lopez and  All Black Zac Guilford and although there were a few absentees for various reasons, the players that were on the starting XV were more or less household names and know to everybody, and of course all would be seen as interchanges happened every 20 mins as the game was played in 4 x 20mins quarters. Montpellier left a few players out of the squad because of injury,  Teddy Iribaren, out for 6/8 weeks, Enzo Selponi who has a back injury and Benjy Fall who had a painful visit to the tooth puller, and the Internationals were still not present,+ Francois Trinh-Duc had only 19mins game time as he is now a member of the restriced 30 players and 20mins or more counts as a full game under the new rulings!!! The rugby was very pleasant to watch and both teams were throwing the ball about, with Pelissie at 10 he was doing his very best to attack the line playing for the very fist time in this position for Montpellier, his No.9 Benoit Paillaugue seems to be like fine wine the older he gets, the better he plays.
 
First try to Montpellier from Kelian Galletier after some good forward work, transformed by Paillaugue 7-0, Clermont hit back quickly with 2 tries in quick succession both coming through the centres first Nakaitaci then Stanley, the inverse defence faltered slightly for Montpellier as you must take your man or the hole behind becomes unrepairable, a lesson to be learned on both occaisons, both tries transformed by Brock James. Paillaugue after some clever work around the base of the ruck created a gap for the Flying Fijian winger Viriviri, who could soon have the nickname Viri Viri Fast, 40 yds out and Usain Bolt style he could not have done better he just left everybody in their tracks and scored with ease  and the half time score was 14-12 to Clermont. Both teams changed their players at half time so everybody present got a run out, the rugby stayed in attacking mode but there was the defense present that is often seen in the TOP 14, some excellent hits from many players, which just shows how well the teams are advancing physically towards the start of the new season. Clermont added tries from Ulagia,Cudmore,and Loic Jaquet, Camille Loped Clemont's new signiong from USAP, added the extras for all 3 tries while Montpellier got another through Thomas Bianchin with Paillauguee adding the extras. Final score Montpellier 19 Clermont 35.
 
The match was an excellent display of fast running rugby, Clermont came out worthy winners in the end, the last quarter maybe just too many youngsters on the park for Montpellier, while Clermont reinforced their team with some wise old heads like Cudmore and Jacquet, the coaches did not reveal all neither, both were keeping their cards close to their chests as this is not the TOP 14 just yet, and there is still 2 weeks of hard work before the secrets will become evident to all. Clermont could well once again, be a massive force in this coming TOP 14 as their last season was a massive disapointment, losing that fabulous unbeaten home record of nearly 5 seasons in last years playoffs against Castres. Montpellier have another 2 weeks to fine tune the squad, the scrum showed great promise and good ball was won at the lineouts, especially by the ever present Alex Bias, Kelian Galletier is progressing with intent. The defeat was a disapointment but will do no harm as there were certain passages of play which need attention, no doubt Mon. Galthie will reveal all in the video session Monday morning, and the necessary repairs will be made, but this looks like anothe crackerjack season with some excellent rugby on our horizons.
 
Next Friday 8th August the last pre season game in Grenoble for the Legions Challenge Cup v London Irish, Montpellier as inaugural winners last year will look to keep that trophy for the second year in succession, before the festivities of the TOP 14 start 16th Aug with the visit of Racing Metro KO. 20.45 at the newly named L'Atrad Stadium...
 
Steve Whittell.