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EUROPEAN CAMPAIGN FINISHES WITH VICTORY

Lundi 20 Janvier 2014
Montpellier’s final H Cup game this season was against the Italians of Trevise, winning only one game this season and losing home and away to both Ulster and Leicester, gave Montpellier a very inadequate 6 points and 3rd in their pool 5, and with a very difficult couple of months to come in the TOP 14 Montpellier needed a good win to start rebuilding confidence. After a monstrous week of bad weather the attendances was always going to be small (5,000) and with a 19.00 KO difficult to get supporters motivated and out of their armchairs. The pitch was in reasonable condition but very heavy under foot and would cut up pretty quickly after several scrums. A minute’s applause was presented before the kick off in tribute to Eric Bechu, it’s a year since he left Montpellier to go to the promised land of rugby giants, all will remember him dearly.
 
The match started well for Montpellier attacking the Italians with force and passion, but the ball was very difficult to keep hold off, and there were plenty of handling errors, but Montpellier tried their best in difficult conditions, the first 20 mins. the score remained zero apiece, but it certainly looked like Montpellier could score at any time. Finally Rene Ranger got his first try for his new club, using his strength to go over in the corner after a superb miss pass move; FTD was just wide from the touch line. The mistakes continued but that was a lot to do with the conditions, the other problem was the old white line fever and everyone wanted to get on that try scoring sheet, bad choices and players holding onto the ball when they should have passed, but after good forward domination Mamuka Gorgodze got himself on the score sheet from close range, a good solid effort from the Montpellier pack, again FTD was inches wide with his conversion attempt.  The ref blew for half time and Montpellier were 10-0 to good.
 
The second half Montpellier played better as a unit but the errors were still there, a lot to do with the conditions, but still they battled on trying to get the 4 tries that would give them some credit on their last game in this competition., Trevise managed to pull back a couple of penalties from their scrum half Botes. The crowd had to wait till the 64th min. when Man of the Match Lucas Dupont scored a great try after some very slick handling; Eric Escande converted 17-6 to the hosts. The 4th try seemed like an eternity before the happening, in fact the 80 mins. had passed when Pierre Berard went over to get the bonus point and Eric Escande added the extras, final score. Montpellier 24 Trevise 6. The pitch did not help Montpellier’s task today but they did try hard and this victory will give them the confidence which will be needed next week with the visit of Bordeaux Begles ko 18.30, a very difficult team to manoeuvre, and a team in need of desperate points if they are to continue their TOP 14 adventure next season, they are just 6 points above the 2nd relegation spot. Lucas Dupont was given the Man of the Match award, but it could have gone to Rene Ranger Anthony Titavake or Jonnie Beattie, in supporting roles Anthony Floch had a good game at fullback while Eric Escande did well in the No.9 shirt playing the whole 80 mins, he had too as the rest of our 9’s are injured. The pack had their moments playing well together but far too many times did they advance singularly without the support of the other forwards, leaving themselves in difficult and lonely places, not to be recommended next weekend.
 
This was not really what Montpellier wanted after a ¼ final place last season leaving at this early stage of the competition, this is not good for morale but the win is, so some confidence is restored, more will needed next Saturday against Bordeaux , but that is an entirely different question.
 
Interview with Montpellier’s All Black centre Rene Ranger.
 
Steve Whittell: Good win for the team and your first try of the season!!
 
Rene Ranger: Definitely very happy to get on the score board the first try is always good, hopefully more to come. The match was not easy in these conditions and the Italians are a powerful team especially upfront, they are very physical and not easy to manoeuvre.
 
Steve Whittell: You seem to be finding your marks quicker, never easy, it everything takes time?
 
Rene Ranger: We are building phases and I am understanding the plays but it does take time, the reactions are much quicker than at the start when I first arrived, but its all getting much better, still a problem with the language, we are making good progress and hopefully the rest of the season will show massive improvements, today we applied plenty of pressure but conditions were not good, the 2nd half was much better I think we played more as a unit 
 
Steve Whittell: The Italians are renowned for their forward play and do not give much away,
 
Rene Ranger: Never easy and there were mistakes by both teams, but our forwards did dominate and we had the lions share of the ball, on a good dry day I think we would have maybe scored more tries but a very greasy surface and ball made it difficult.
 
Steve Whittell: You have now played wing and centre which do you prefer.
 
Rene Ranger: Centre is my preference, but if the coaches put me on the wing that’s also great, and I got my first try on the wing, as long as the boys are playing well and we are winning that’s all that matters, we have a bit of work to do to get where we want to be but that will happen, we are working very hard to perform well and get the results that the club needs to qualify for the end of season playoffs.
 
Steve Whittell: Cheers Rene go join the boys and celebrate, I think there is a little initiation to perform in the changing room with the boys for your first try for Montpellier!!! 
 
Resume & Interview by Steve Whittell.