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INTENSE, PHYSICAL and UNLUCKY

Lundi 19 Août 2013
Well if you wanted the new TOP 14 season to start with an explosion it certainly did, the clash between Toulon, H Cup winners and Montpellier one of many peoples favourites this season for honours, took place on Friday evening as the Gala opening match of this seasons TOP 14 in front of a very large crowd of 14,719, the weather hot and sticky, typical of this time of year. Montpellier fielded some of their new signings, Hamilton, Tchale- Watchou, Pelissie, Tuitavake, Oliver and Floch, and with Mas on the bench Montpellier looked as strong as Toulon who are a who’s who of International rugby stars and they like Montpellier have still several who have yet to arrive. 
 
The match started with Montpellier attacking Toulon from every quarter and after only 3 minutes, a slick movement by the backs saw Wynand Oliver draw his opponent and send Yoan Audrin over in the corner a perfect start, Jonathon Pelissie added the extras Montpellier 7 Toulon 0. The game was all Montpellier with possession and territory, Toulon had to defend for most of the 1st half, Pelissie managed another 2 penalties while Wilco having missed his first slotted over an easy attempt from in front of the sticks, to bring the score to 13-3 in favour of the home side at the pause, but in the dying minutes of the first half Toulon managed to cross the line by the ever popular Delon Armitage, but with the new ref and video rules in place, the question was: the pass between Wilco and Giteau was it forward? The answer after several minutes, YES try disallowed and Montpellier went into the break 10 points to the better.
 
The second half was more of the same, intense, physical, and a rugby that looked very similar to Trench Wars of days gone by, the hits were of the same value as the Rumble in the Jungle and they were massive!!!! Penalties were added by both teams 4 for Wilco who found his form after the early miss Benoit Paillaugue who replaced a very excellent Pelissie, added 2 for Montpellier one from a massive 50 meters and a well taken drop from Francois Trinh-Duc who was in complete command in the his No.10 spot. With the last 10 minutes still to play and Toulon only 7 points to arrears Montpellier opened another relentless attack but the pass from Francois Trinh-Duc was read by Mermoz, interception and try under the sticks for Toulon, Wilco added the extras 22 a piece. 8 minutes to go no penalties especially with Sir Jonny still on the fielded, Montpellier defended well keeping Toulon away from their try line and in the dying minutes Montpellier received a penalty but it was almost 55 meters from the sticks and in their own half, Little Big Man Benoit Paillaugue hit a superb effort but it fell just short and the game ended: Montpellier 22 Toulon 22. If this is the ingredients for the rest of the season bring it on!!! This match had everything, there are going to be a lot of sore bodies by the time May comes around.
 
For Montpellier Alex Bias was immense, Hamilton  had a good start for his new team Pelissie excellent at scrum half, Trinh-Duc  one mistake but other than that well in command but sometimes should be kicking to relieve some pressure, the new centre pairing of Oliver and Tiutavake were solid in defence and showed their class in attack Floch under the high ball did very well and the pack were incredible, especially the front row when everyone was talking about the power of Toulon’s pack. Montpellier outmanoeuvred them, not easily, but showed the hard work that Mario Ledesmas had been pushing from the beginning of this season’s build up was bearing its fruit, not the perfect start but immensely encouraging nevertheless.
 
Interview with Anthony Tuitavake Montpellier’s new centre signing: 
 
Steve Whittell:  Your first game of the season, in your new club what are your feelings.
 
Anthony Tuitavake: Firstly it’s one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever played in, the support is unbelievable the noise at key moments was enormous and you can certainly feel the Montpellier supporters behind you willing you forward. 
 
Steve Whittell: The match itself, difficult?
 
Anthony Tuitavake: Definitely, a very rude introduction to the TOP 14 we did just about enough out there but Toulon are a very physical side, they are a very solid team, the result well what can you say we were so close to pulling it off and it just did not quite happen, sometimes you need a bit of luck it went their way and they snatched the draw from the jaws of defeat. 
 
Steve Whittell: Very physical and intense our TOP 14...
 
Anthony Tuitavake: You can say that, this is one of the most intense games of my career, it’s played at 100mph and you just do not have time to think, a lot is pure instinct, the physical side is enormous but that I love and will look forward to more of the same every week, somehow I don’t think I will be disappointed. 
 
Steve Whittell:  The draw is not what we wanted but better than defeat?
 
Anthony Tuitavake: We are disappointed with the result as everyone put in a massive effort tonight they had one little bit of luck and the opportunity went their way, of course they are H Cup Champions
and they will not loose that many games this season it would have been a great win in front of a fantastic home crowd but it was not be.
 
Steve Whittell: Biarritz next week, away from home?
 
Anthony Tuitavake: You never get back the points you loose the week before, but we have to go there and get points to rectify our short giving’s tonight, we have a fantastic group full of spirit and the atmosphere in the team is second to none, work hard this week and you just never know we will be going to Biarritz with only victory in our minds.
 
Steve Whittell: Cheers Anthony it was not the best start, but a long way from the worst start to the season and we still get 2 pts out of it. Go join the rest of the boys you probably need a cold shower to cool down.
 
Resemue & interview by Steve Whittell.