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Ugly yes, but it still counts !

Le 26 février 2018

After 2 victories away from home Clermont, and then Oyonnax with the attacking bonus point, Montpellier were at home to Bordeaux Begles a team that often blows hot and cold but you can always be sure they are never an easy team to beat.A Canal + gala game with a Saturday afternoon 14.45 KO. On a very cold day with a spattering of rain, just before the KO. to make handling not the easiest. With 3 players away on International duty Fall, Camara, and Galletier, Montpellier had a slightly different look about it, but nevertheless, all these players were capable of playing their part and helping the team over that gain line for another win to keep them at the top of this season’s TOP 14.

The school holidays are still among us so the crowd was nowhere near a full house, (9,000) not sure what is needed to fill this Stadium, the team is No.1 in this Championship, playing excellent rugby with 7 attacking bonus points out of 8 at home, but they are still struggling to fill this great Stadium, can’t really ask for more from the team and coaches. The game got under way and it was Bordeaux who looked the strongest and having lost at home by one point the previous week to Castres they were looking to a get back on the straight and narrow. Often they came close and it was only some last ditch tackling that kept them out, but it was Montpellier who opened up their account first with a Ruan Pienaar penalty 3-0. There was some sloppy play and Montpellier did not seem capable of getting any rhythm into their game it was all very choppy and not a great advertisement for TOP 14 rugby, knock-ons, forward passes, penalty touches missed and some very dodgy lineouts.

Montpellier paid the price, first try of the game came from Bordeaux, the backs got good ball in the Montpellier half, it came to Fidow who took the gap between the 2 Montpellier centres and it was a yours, mine yours situation, where neither got to grips and the Bordeaux winger took the boulevard as it opened with pleasure, and he strolled over for the visitors first score, Hickey missed the conversion but Bordeaux had their noses in front 3-5. Ruan Pienaar missed a penalty just before half time and at the break it was still anyone’s game, no doubt words will have been said at half time by Vern Cotter as this was along way from promising from the home side.  The second half started with disaster for Montpellier, ruck on the 40mts line and Ruan Pienaar threw a pass to his winger Nadolo, but Fidow was alert, took an easy interception and scampered all the way to the line without opposition, for his second of the game two tries to zero for Bordeaux and a 3-10lead, this was not going to plan for Vern Cotters men.

Minutes later Pienaar got a penalty back for Montpellier an there was still 35mins left to win this game 6-10. A bench full of class begin to replace some tired looking players, Steyn, Williams and Mich Nariashvili all came on to try and turn this match around for Montpellier, and it was Francois Steyn who after Montpellier were moving forward in the Bordeaux 22. gave the perfect chip kick for Jan Serfontein to collect and dive over with only centimetres between the ball being grounded and the touch line being infringed. The ref had to go to video but after a few tense minutes the arm was raised, the ensuing conversion was missed by Pienaar and the score was 11-10 to Montpellier with around 20 mins. left to play.

Montpellier still had plenty of defending to do and Francois Steyn with his massive boot cleared their lines with some tremendous clearance kicks more than once. Somehow Montpellier held on until the ref blew for full time and that one point difference which is the smallest of points gave Montpellier the victory they just about deserved 11-10.

Winning is what this game is all about, you lose and stay static, you win and you advance irrespective of what the other teams do, this may be a very large lesson needed that the effort made today was at the very least mediocre and nothing more, but as they say win playing badly is a bonus, as this was a match that could have gone awfully wrong. The next few weeks there are the visits of Castres, Racing 92, and La Rochelle and if the socks are not pulled up to perfection Montpellier could be in trouble, but Vern Cotter and his staff know this and there will be vicious and delicate preparations for these games, this was a blimp not to be repeated.

Next up is the away game next Saturday March 3rd kick-off18.00 v Agen who have just given Stade Francais a run for their money getting an win away from home in Paris, (34-36) so their tails will be up and confidence on a high. Montpellier need to take them with the utmost of respect while still trying to do the business of winning.

The next month could well be the most important in this season’s calendar, win next week and the next 3 home games could push Montpellier to a playoff Semi, but first and foremost Agen then the rest one game at a time, and nobody needs to get away with themselves, hard work and dedication will bring rewards.

 

Steve Whittell.