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Tigers Claw Victory from the Jaws of Defeat

Le 16 décembre 2013
After last weekends H Cup 8 try fest, where Leicester came out winners by 41-32, it was Montpellier’s turn to host the Premiership Champions Leicester and twice winners of the H Cup, Fabien Galthie had rung the changes in the Montpellier team sheet, bringing in youngsters Selponi, Berard, Artru, Dupont, his hand had been forced by holidays for certain players and some others also needing a well earned rest. The game was watched by a half decent crowd of 10,859 not quite in Christmas spirits, although the noise created by the Tigers supporters suggested they had started their celebrations earlier than most. Montpellier defended as though their lives depended on it for most of the first half, the Tigers had plenty of ball and looked dangerous in all quarters, but the home defence held them out and to everyone surprise the teams went to the break with a very old fashion score of 0-0. The Tigers did however receive a yellow in the first half, with only 14 on the park after Benjamin had body charged Benoit Paillaugue a little late; he was so late he would have missed the last bus home!!!
The second half saw the score board accelerate into action, once again the Tigers with most of the ball kept on the attack and eventually their patience paid off with the England hooker Tom Youngs going over in the corner, Toby Flood missed the conversion kick and the Tigers were 5pts to the better.  Montpellier responded quickly this time the young Benoit Paillaugue darted from the base of the scrum after a good ball from Alex Tulou, accelerated towards the line he nearly made it but sensibly saw the even younger Enzo Selponi on his outside, gave the perfect pass and the French under 20’s fly half passed into the hallowed ground for his first ever H Cup try. The Little Big Man added the extras and Montpellier got their noses in front 7-5. This gave the home side a boost of confidence and minutes later they were at it again, the mighty Georgian Mamuka Gorgodze raced out of a ruck did the necessary, drawing the fullback and giving another well timed pass to Lucas Dupont who went over unopposed under the sticks, Eric Escande added the extras, he had replaced Benoit Paillaugue minutes early after the Little Big Man had received a couple of crunching tackles and was a little the worse for wear.
Time left on the clock was 15 minutes and Montpellier ahead 14-5, could they survive the onslaught that was going to face them from the English Champions, a silly penalty gave the Tigers another 3pts converted by Lamb, which brought them to within 6pts of Montpellier. Tigers never lie down and they attacked the Montpellier try line with everything they had but the defensive wall, with little left in the tank held fast until there was only one minute to go and a final attack by the Tigers, Right, left and right again, the hole was created the Montpellier defence was on its knees they had given everything and finally ran out of steam, over went Goneva with 79 minutes showing on the clock. The Tigers needed the conversion for the win and this Lamb secured, the Tigers had stabbed Montpellier in the heart and there was no coming back from this. Montpellier 14 Tigers 15, there was just time for the kick off which was fielded by the Tigers and the ball sent high into the upper stand, game over and Montpellier’s H Cup was over for this season. The last 2 games in Janurary will be only for the honours.
Inexperience is probably what was Montpellier’s down fall, they can now see the difference between the teams that know how to play these very tight games, and themselves, but this is a massive learning curve and good points can be taken from the encounter, Enzo Selponi  has a mature head on his very young shoulders and did excellently replacing the rested Francois Trinh-Duc, Lucas Dupont who has had little game time this season,  deserved his Man of the Match award, and Mamuka Gorgodze gave another sterling performance. The TOP 14 is back next weekend with a very difficult away game against last seasons H  Cup winners Toulon, a game Montpellier need to win, but that will never be an easy task in the Stade Mayol.
Steve Whittell.