MONTPELLIER’S « LITTLE BIG MAN »
Benoit Paillaugue may not be tall in stature, or heavy in weight, but he must have a heart that weighs at least 10kgs, Montpellier’s Little Big Man showed on Saturday against Racing Metro just why Coach Fabien Galthie has confidence in this pint size prodigy.In absolutely dismal conditions Montpellier was in Paris to take on Racing Metro one of the big spending clubs of this season’s TOP 14, not many had given Montpellier much of a chance but after wins, away from home against Bordeaux and last weeks win at home against Castres in similar conditions, confidence was high and the visitors have never taken a point from Racing since their insertion back into the Elite so why not this weekend.
The first half was nearly impossible with heavy rain ruining anything that was tried by both teams but Montpellier were playing with an authority, sometimes under enormous pressure in defence but they more or less had control of the game, their tackling was magnificent with everyone doing their up most to keep Racing at bay, they deserved their slender half time lead of a penalty from Benoit Paillaugue Racing 0 Montpellier 3.The second half saw the rain get stronger and also the morale of the visitors was beginning to show its weight, although running rugby was almost impossible the kicking game of Francois Trinh-Duc was excellent, time and time again he found areas of the pitch empty of defenders and kept putting Racing on the back foot.Racing had taken a slender lead with 3 penalties to one more from Montpellier 9-6, but another long clearance by Trinh-Duc gave Fall too much time and Alex Bias charged down the defenders kick, he pounced on the ball and just made it to the line despite strong attention by the Racing defence, the Welsh Ref went to the video but soon that “you may award a try” sang through the transmission and with the extras to follow converted by the ever present Paillaugue Montpellier were 13- 9 ahead. Montpellier’s scrum half added another penalty in the 62nd min. 9-16 to make Racing have to score a converted try just to get themselves level, but all they could manage was another penalty and the ref finally blew for the end of the game with Montpellier coming out winners 12-16.
The joy was there for all to see, a victory fully deserved but gained by a defence that was impenetrable throughout, and a pack of forwards who were magnificent taking on Racing’s massive pack and coming out on top. Francois Trinh-Duc did himself no harm with the International season not far away and Pierre Berard played an excellent part at fullback with his catching and kicking nearly faultless under absurd conditions, but the Little Big Man Benoit Paillaugue, growled and barked from the no.9 spot pushing and shoving his pack always forward and even had words with Jimmy Nagusa as the flying Fijian went into sevens mode late on in the game when a simple clearance kick would have been better. Montpellier have a team spirit and camaraderie that equals none, this game could be the inspiration they need to go that little bit further, the next 2 weeks its H Cup with Toulon away and Sale at home so we could see a few changes to the team sheet, but we will leave that to the experts Galthie Glas and Ledesma, well that is their job!!!!The referee exchanges initiated by the National League de Rugby and their British and Irish counterparts are an excellent idea but could someone mention that if the Welsh or any other of the British Isles are coming to take charge in the middle a little knowledge of the home language (French) could be a massive help, and a respect that should be shown when abroad by all and everyone!!