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THE CURSE OF CASTRES………AGAIN !!!!!!!

Lundi 19 Mai 2014
In years to come the older generation maybe telling stories of the old witch who came down from the Black Mountains (mountains surrounding Castres) and cast a spell on Montpellier who were playing Castres at the time, whether this is true or not, people are beginning to believe that there is something extra- terrestrial influencing the games between these two teams. The rendez vous Lille, and the spanking brand new footie Stadium given for the two semi final play-offs of this seasons TOP 14, the first on Friday evening saw Toulon come out winners by 16-6 against Racing Metro, but Saturday afternoon again saw the Battle from the South, Montpellier v Castres, 4th season in succession 3 x ¼ final play-offs previously, and this season a semi play-off. Montpellier had 2 weeks to prepare for this and were ready, Castres had their ¼ final win last week against Clermont, would that effect Castres playing the one extra game, difficult to say these occasions are normally of the most extreme intensity. The game was a battle in all aspects of this fantastic sport, no yards were given both teams defended like enraged lions and attacked with the guile of hungry predators, a yellow card from the ko. given to Rene Ranger for a dangerous tackle did not help their cause, but that was cancelled out 10 mins. later when the Castres winger Grosso got exactly the same!!  Two penalties from Kockott and a drop goal from Francois Trinh-Duc, 6-3, were the first scores in the game. In the 31min. Ranger conceded a 5 yd. scrum, from this Claassen took the ball from the base and went over almost unopposed,  the Montpellier back row seemed to be pushing but not looking and made the job so much easier for Claassen, Kockott added the extras and the break had been made 13-3, minutes later FTD created space for Olivier who gave the ball to Rene Ranger and after rounding the fullback he went under the sticks FTD added the extras and Montpellier were back in the game 13-10, the ref blew for half-time, a  very close game with nothing between the 2 teams.
 
The second half saw Kockott add another penalty then two more from FTD, and the score a very equal 16-16, Montpellier were having a disastrous day with the line outs losing far too many to the opposition, something that has never been really mastered all season. Finally for the first time in the match Montpellier got their noses in front with another FTD penalty (this is the no 10 who can’t kick according to PSA  and 14 points already to his name) the lead lasted just 2 mins. as Kockott added another penalty to even the scores yet again at 19-19. There were some very near misses in the second half by Castres, Remy Lamerat dropped the ball short of the line no try, after a last ditch saving tackle from Jimmy Nagusa  and then  Evans  was crash tackled into touch by Berard when he really should have scored but despite these close calls Montpellier battled  with heart and soul but could not get over the try line at 80 mins the two teams were still locked at 19-19 extra time, 10 mins each way to decide who goes to Paris and who goes on holiday. Seconds to go in the first 10 mins of extra time and Seremaia Bai the Pappy of the Castres team drops a goal and Castres sneak a mini lead as the ref blows for the end of the first 10 mins of extra time. The second period of extra time saw that the fatigue was setting in, and players started going down with cramp, the medical staff from both teams were called upon every other minute or so it seemed. Montpellier were given a penalty from 30yds out, the big problem was if they kicked it everybody thought they would lose if the match was drawn as the equal tries, drops, and penalties were calculated on the score after 80mins and not including the extra time, in fact nobody really knew the regulation to a tee, thinking they would lose the game on count back, Montpellier opted for the touch and hoped they would score the try, disaster they lost the ball in the line out and then lost it again in the  following 5 yds scrum and of course did not score,  shortly after that the whistle went for the end of the game and Castres were on their way to Paris in 2 weeks time.
 
The Montpellierians dropped to their knees, absolutely gutted, so near, yet so far away, sometimes sport can be very cruel, tears were shed and a massive feeling of emptiness, so much given yet so little to be joyful about!!! The truth is Castres played a very tight game, controlled the ball more often than not, giving little chances for Montpellier’s attacking qualities to be accelerated into 5th gear and we all know, “NO BALL NO WIN”………. A Royal chance not taken, line outs missed, dropped balls, some bad decisions, but body, heart, and soul did Montpellier put into this combat, never giving up and always going the extra yard!!!  
Unfortunately sometimes that is just not enough to get that ticket to the final in Paris, the joys and the tears of rugby, but then there is always next season!!!!!!!!! Even though this was a disastrous end to the season, the team and coaches have to be congratulated on a great season and another first, direct ascension into the semi final play- offs, and as already stated. There is always next season !!!! 
 
Steve Whittell.