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Le 01 octobre 2012

Under grey skies and pouring rain Montpellier were  hosting  Castres Olympique, who before the game were on the same number of points as the hosts but a slightly better goal average. Last season Castres beat Montpellier 3 times twice in the TOP 14 and then again in the 1/4 final play offs, so the rot had to be stopped.With conditions very difficult Montpellier tried to play an open game of rugby but the ball resembled a piece of soap and it was never going to be easy. Montpellier had several chances to score but a couple of bad decisions and some last minute defending by Castres kept the first half try less, but Castres managed to go into the break leading by 3-6 Kockott getting the better of Eric Escande but all to play for in the second half.During the break the heavens opened and the conditions became nearly impossible, so it was a matter of trying to play on each others mistakes, the high ball being the optimum goal as playing through the hands was simply out of the question although Montpellier did try.After exchanging penalties plus a couple more for Castres they managed to get themselves in front by 6-12, Benoit Paillaugue who had replaced the young Eric Escande, he was not having an easy time containing Kockott knocked over a penalty from more or less the half way line which in these conditions was indeed an exploit.Montpellier were making the breaks but the finished product kept falling short, understandable in these atrocious conditions, however another massive Gary Owen by Francois Trinh-Duc which landed beautifully just over the goal line, Castres were unable to field and Shontayne Hape was there to collect and fall over the line, the ref went to the video and kept the crowd in silence for a good couple of minutes before the arm was raised and a sense of relief went through the supporters, not the most spectacular try he will ever score but maybe one of the most important, Paillaugue added the extras and Montpellier had their noses in front 13-12 for the first time in the game.There was still 13 or so minutes left on the clock but Montpellier had their tails up and became the team who moved forward, the scrums were sending Castres backwards and in the loose Montpellier was scavenging everything and anything, everywhere, and of course that produced the mistakes from Castres giving the hosts another 2 fairly easy penalties which Benoit Paillaugue obliged moving the score onto 19-12 for the home side. The last few minutes were anxious as a converted try was always possible for Castres to obtain the draw but Montpellier remained firm and eventually the siren sounded with Pierre Berard running the ball out of play. Montpelier overjoyed and Castres fairly happy with the bonus defensive point. Final score Montpelier 19 Castres Olympique 12.

Conditions nearly impossible for Montpellier’s to play their game of running rugby, the plan “B” worked but that was mainly due to the forwards who were magnificent especially in the second half as Castres are renowned for their quality forward play and they seemed to have developed  a backward gear, as the Montpellier forward domination increased as the game progressed. Francois Trinh-Duc orchestrated well from no.10 and used his kicking game with intelligence also congratulations to Thibault Privat who successfully negotiated his 300th TOP 14 game, a rare feat in the modern era. 
Another game of no yellow cards and try less for the opposition, this surely has got to put a couple of feathers in the Montpellier head gear, so next week off to Gay Paris, to take on the challenge of Racing Metro which will be no mean feat, but the morale is there and if the same Solidarity and Spirit continues there is no reason why success cannot be theirs in Paris.
Steve Whittell.