DESPITE LOSS AT LYON, MONTPELLIER FINISH LEADER

Le 08 mai 2018

Montpellier had little interest in this last game of the season v Lyon as far as the positions go in the Championship, their victory last week at home to Pau guaranteed them the top spot. However the game was of utmost importance for Lyon, a win and they would have the 6th spot and last play-off place; even a draw would give them the same., so there was lots to play for as far as Lyon were concerned. Montpellier fielded a mixed selection with some of the 1st choice players rested and some who wanted a little more game time before the semi v Toulon or Lyon on the Fri 25th May in Lyon at the brand new footie stadium where Montpellier won their Euro Challenge Cup final a couple of seasons ago v London Harlequins.

The game started with Lyon 7 pts down very quickly, the 3rd min. and Nemsie Nadolo had one of his hallmark runs knocking away defenders to go over, extras added by Ruan Pienaar 7-0. Arnold got one back after a high ball was misjudged by Henry Immelman and the Lyon winger pounced on it as it rolled over the line, the conversion added by Beauxis 7-7. Montpellier was playing well without much ball and needed to defend for long periods as Lyon were chasing the win and qualification. They went ahead with a Beauxis penalty but that was quickly overturned by a Ruan Pienaar penalty and the scores were very close at 10-10. On the stroke of half time Lyon took the lead with a try from Tuifua going over with force after excellent work from the Lyon pack, the try was converted and Lyon went to the break 17-10 the better.

The second half started with a Montpellier try in the 50th min by Nico Van Rensberg his 4th of the season, he saw the gap gave a dummy pass and crashed over, once again Ruan Pienaar added the extras and back to level pegging at 17-17. Then, Lyon managed to regain the lead when Gill went over from close quarters, the ref viewed the video several times before awarding the score, a little dubious to most bar of course the very happy Lyon players and supporters the conversion was missed 22-17. The game was ebbing backwards and forwards, next on the score board Momo Haouas from close quarters he gathered and dived over the try line Ruan Pienaar added the extras and Montpellier were back in front 22-24. This did not last long as Lyon added another penalty to take a one pt lead with just 10mins left on the clock. Lyon had their heads up and the chance of a last minute victory and qualification motivated them massively, they pounded the Montpellier try line and eventually Montpellier cracked, a fast ball was sent out after numerous pick and go’s for Mignot to crash over on the wing, the all important conversion was passed by Michalak. The final score Lyon 32 Montpellier 24, the result was irrelevant for Montpellier as they were already qualified for a direct semi final place but this victory by the home side gave them their first ever play-off place in their short TOP 14 history.

Lyon over the moon and La Rochelle  in tears after their bonus point win over Stade Francais finishing in that God awful 7th place and out of the play-offs. This was a good performance by Montpellier, they nearly won this game but the last 10mins was all Lyon and they probably just about deserved their victory. Now the sharp end of the stick begins, Toulon v Lyon and the winner plays Montpellier in the first semi on Fri the 25th May ko. 21.00, Toulouse v Castres for a semi final spot v Racing the following day on the 26th ko 16.45, both in the Groupama Stadium Lyon. Montpellier will probably play Toulon in the semi if the form book goes to expectations but sillier things have happened before, Montpellier will have to be at their very best if it is Toulon as they have the experience and are starting to hit play-off form. The boys have just under 3 weeks to prepare and Vern Cotter will be placing his strategies before the players on how to continue this magic route towards Utopia, he has been there before and knows both sides of a final so he will be making sure that the semi will have nothing left to be unturned, as everyone is now thinking 160mins of rugby  for a Bouclier but firstly the semi has to be won which will be no easy task, blood, sweat, and tears and more will be needed from absolutely everyone concerned, including supporters who hopefully will be in their THOUSANDS TO SUPPORT Montpellier in Lyon.

Steve Whittell.