MONTPELLIERS TRIBUTE « DO SOMETHING EXCEPTIONAL »
Lundi 21 Janvier 2013
A very emotional week has just ended for Montpellier both on and off the park, Eric Bechu passed away last Tuesday morning after a long and serious illness, and the following Thursday his funeral, a very sad period for all concerned at the club, players, staff and supporters all needed a time of reflection. Our sincerest condolences go to his family… The final pool 6 H Cup game against the leaders, Toulon was scheduled for a very wet and windy Saturday afternoon. The club advertised a full house of well over 14,000 supporters who also came to say their last farewells to the clubs coach Eric Bechu, this they did with great dignity, most of them all dressed in something white. The atmosphere was electric Toulon had come to seek points to establish a home 1/4 final tie, Montpellier were trying to qualify for their first ever H Cup ¼ final spot. Emotion was running high but Montpellier needed more than that if they were to win this extremely difficult game.
The players needed to put aside their emotions for 80 mins. and concentrate on the game, something never easy when the coach they all respected was no longer present. Somehow the players grew in stature for the next 1/2hrs they came onto the park with faces of only concentration and to do the job in hand, dismantle Toulon in every quarter of the game.
From the off Montpellier showed just how they could tackle, every hit was massive, the opposition players were getting smacked backwards time and time again, and when the home side had the ball they were swift and relentless in attack In fact after a Jonnie Wilko penalty in the first 5 mins Montpellier struck back immediately, after good work by the forwards, Francois Trinh-Duc through out the perfect pass with both centres running lateral dummy runs Zou (Combezou) took the ball the hole was there and over the line he went, first try to Montpellier, which Little Big Man (Paillaugue) added the extras. Montpellier 7 Toulon 3.
This was Montpellier’s game they were all over Toulon and the flying Fijian was very unlucky not to grab a Trinh-Duc cross kick to go over and then minutes later created a little magic of his own only to be denied by Armitage as he dived over the line trying to ground the ball, another escape for Toulon, but 3 more Paillaugue penalties put Montpellier in front at the pause 16-3.
The second half was much of the same, pure dominance by the home side, the aggression in the tackles, the discipline throughout the park, and at the break down Montpellier was just at their very best. Toulon did not have anything to offer every time they had possession they were knocked back, pummelled, and then knocked back again, and all this in front of nearly 15,000 ecstatic supporters who never ceased throughout the match to encourage and cheer on their heroes. The icing on the cake came on the 47th minute, a loose ball was hacked on by Jimmy Nagusa, various players tried to gather in vain but a certain Benoit Paillaugue did get his hands on the ball with the line 5mts away over he went, UTOPIA !!!!! and this man of small stature but massive heart did not forget to tap the armband the players were wearing and everyone knew what that was all about !!! Montpellier 23 Toulon 3. That was where the scoring ended but Montpellier continued their act of courage right to the final whistle and nobody moved in the crowd until the Lap of Honour had been finished.
Eric Bechu said before the Top 14 final in 2011 against Toulouse,” vous pouvez faire quelque choses d’exceptionnel” (today you can do something exceptional) that day they narrowly lost but today they did what the coach had asked for, a fitting tribute. ERC Man of the Match was Benoit Paillaugue but that was because one player had to be named (he did deserve it) but everyone on that park today was proud to be there, they played their hearts out, leaving blood and guts along the way, but they all played for the one person no longer with us.. R I P Eric Bechu.
Pitch side interview with Jonnie Beattie.
Steve Whittell: Jonnie that was some match, with all the emotion today a difficult task for the boys but they were up for it?
Johnnie Beattie: Yes a difficult situation and of course the emotions were running high but we still had a massive task in hand and everybody played their hearts out today, and it was for one person who’s courage and enormous respect we have, Eric, this was our tribute for a great great man, who had been coach at this club for the last 3 seasons and will be sadly missed, but a first ever for the club, a H Cup ¼ final place which will probably be against Clermont.
Steve Whittell: I think that even in the scrums Eric was giving you a helping hand!!
Johnnie Beattie: Without a doubt he was there with us before and during the game, and will be looking over us for eternity, the way the boys performed today was a fitting and very special tribute to a wonderful man whose name will be remembered at Montpellier forever.
Steve Whittell: Thank you Jonnie go join the rest of the boys you need to be together as a team tonight..
Interview by Steve Whittell.