Take the 4 points and move forward !
This weekend, the LNR had a National Derby weekend with several matches being played against their nearest neighbours. Tt was also a day where fans and supporters were given the chance to wear their best fancy dress garbs and show their loyalties to their clubs. Obviously not all clubs had near neighbours so some of the derbies did have distance between the 2 clubs.
This was not the case for Montpellier who had a short trip down the motorway to Perpignan to play USAP. As the Catalan club have only just come back to the Elite Championship this game has not been played for several seasons, but it was always a hard fought battle as most derbies are, and not unusual to see several yellow cards being dished out by the man in the middle.
The game started in heavy rain which would not make handling very easy and the pitch seemed to cut up very rapidly, making the scrum a very difficult affair to manoeuvre. But as winter is on its way probably time to start getting used to these conditions and some games are going to just that. Montpellier had fielded a strong side with Bismarck Du Plessis back after his one game suspension and Johan Goosen back at No. 10 as Aaron Cruden is still out injured.
Montpellier were quickly of the mark with a try from Kelian Galletier, penalty touch, the ball gathered and after a good moving maul the forwards crashed over for the first try of the game, the conversion was missed from the touch line by Ruan Pienaar, 0-5. The mistakes were plentiful from both teams, but the heavy rain did not help the situation and the scrums became a bit of a lottery with both sets of forwards slipping and sliding all over the place. The ball was lost on numerous occasions by both teams, this was not going to be fast running champagne rugby, Benji Fall got himself in the bin when he late tackled Poujol, although he protested it was a matter of, if it had been a train he would be still waiting for the next one ! Penalties were exchanged by the 2 Irish players, Pienaar and Jackson who both played together at the Irish club Ulster. Paddy Jackson getting 2 and Pienaar 1 moving the score to 6-8. This was not the greatest game to watch but as the conditions were bad it was always going to be strewed with errors. Just before half time Goosen made the initial break served Kelian Galletier who advanced down the park before a tap tackle felled him, but he gave the ball to Reilhac who produced a beautiful chip kick for Serfontein to chase, catch, and dive over. Splendid try, shortly afterwards the Ref blew for the break and the teams went for their half time talk with the advantage to Montpellier 6-13.
The second half got underway and Goosen hit an enormous penalty from the half way line that sailed over the crossbar with no trouble at all adding another 3 points for Montpellier 6-16. This was starting to look good for Montpellier and in the 57th and 59th minutes USAP were given 2 yellows, this was Montpellier’s chance to drive the nails in the Catalan coffin, secure a bonus point and wrap the game up. For reasons unknown to man and beast, Montpellier made some God awful decisions while USAP were down to 13 players on the park. Goosen went inside when the backs were pleading for the ball having a 5 to 2 advantage, then Bismarck turned into a fly kicking hooker when all he had to do was pass the ball to the outside where they were queuing up to score, so there was no score all the time that USAP were down to 13.
Goosen did make amends when he cross kicked to Jimmy Nagusa who collected on his wing and scampered over with no opposition easy try for Jimmy, Pienaar added the extras and Montpellier had a 23-6 lead with just 10mins. of the match remaining. USAP did manage a gallant last 10mins running in 2 tries from Acebes and Bachelier to secure a defensive bonus point, only there second point of the season. Final score USAP 20 Montpellier 23.
Not the best of games but it’s 4 points in the pocket and that’s all that is needed from any away game, the conditions were far from ideal but winning ugly is always better than a draw or a loss. Montpellier’s defence was good especially in the first half, but far too many mistakes were made and some very bad decisions, but winning always counts especially away from home, so move on to next week, and Toulon at home next Sunday afternoon. This week needs to see some hard work from all concerned as Toulon are not having their best start to the season and may be looking to upset the boys as they also needs points, this will be the first of 4 matches this season v Toulon as we have also drawn them in the Champions Cup, these games will be played home and away in December.
Tuesday also sees the Press training day open to the public starting 14.30 approx, so come along and watch Vern Cotter get his men ready for the Battle v Toulon next Sunday.