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The new season starts with a victory

Le 06 août 2019

The new 19/20 season got underway on Friday evening at the Millau Parc des Sports Stadium for their Summer rugby tournament with the first preparation game against Brive, newly promoted back into the TOP 14, this was also the first game for Montpellier’s new coach Xavier Garbajosa and his assistant P P Lafond.

The Montpellier team was a mixture of young espoirs and some of the first team choices but with the World Cup just around the corner and a bucketful of injuries, the team sheet had a few supporters guessing who some of these guys were. Given their chance the youngsters performed really well and one or two were outstanding, leading the show Thomas Darmon at No 10, he kept a cool head and showed how mature he was for one of the youngest players on the park, and will be pushing hard this season for a chance to show his worth in the TOP 14. The game was played at a very fast pace and was enjoyable to watch, yes of course there were plenty of errors from both teams but that is why these preparation games are played, there was also some very good rugby in between. Montpellier’s defence had plenty to do in the first 20mins. as it was Brive who took control of the game and attacked at every opportunity but some good covering and hard tackling kept the Brive players at bay.

When Montpellier attacked they looked good for a first outing, some fine work by Kevin Kornath gave Gaby Ngandebe the chance he needed and over he went for the first try of the game Darmon converted 7-0 for Montpellier.

Brive attacked whenever they could and had the advantage in numbers when Benjy Fall was yellow carded for a knock down of the ball with Brive looking to score, in fact mins later they went over with a try from their No8 Fa’aso’o who used his power to get over into the hallowed ground which levelled the score at 7-7. Just before half time Gaby Ngandebe saw a gap and crossed the line as a gentleman he gave the ball to Thomas Darmon, the easiest try he will ever score all he had to do was catch it and ground the ball which he did then stepped up to pass the conversion, half time score Montpellier 14   Brive 7.

The second half was much the same as the first with both teams running at each other to the very best of their ability, ex Montpellier player of last season Guillaume Galletier went over for Brive much to the delight of most of his family who were present to support him, and of course his cousin Kelian who was playing for Montpellier in the back row, again the teams were level at 14-14. Montpellier’s new signing from Vannes Antony Bouthier knocked over a penalty to give the team a slender lead 17-14.

Brive were not finished and went into the lead for the first time in the game Abadie went over from short range again this was converted by Laranjeira 17-21. With just over 25mins left on the clock Montpellier needed to get that lead back, this they did twice and both times Ngandebe was the try scorer giving him a hat rick on his first outing well done that man!! He really should have had 4 but he gave Darmon a pressie that was a very unselfish gesture by him, this bought the score to 29-21 when the ref finally blew for full time.

Most of the supporters from both teams and the locals enjoyed this game there were more mistakes towards the end but that was the heat that finally got to the players who were on their knees after 70mins, it was far too hot to play 80mins of fast running rugby in this August heat.

A very good result for Montpellier, yes these are just prep games but winning provides confidence and team moral which goes a long way in todays game. A first win for new coach Xavier Garbajosa, coaches are never 100% happy but as all things go, there was a rye smile at some point after the game, nothing better than winning your first game in charge.

There are plenty of things to work on but the basics are there some hard work in the next 3 weeks should get the boys ready for the first game of the season at Castres once again our arch rival is there hoping to upset Montpellier’s start to the season, but things can change very quickly in this new TOP 14 season.

Next Friday the 9th Montpellier play Agen at Camares in the Vaquerin Challenge and the following week again Friday evening Toulon in Bastia Corsica, before the season gets under way at Castres on the 24th Auust.

First game, first victory, long may it continue !

Steve Whittell