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Gallant effort undermined by discipline

Le 26 août 2019

Ho Ho Ho and off we go, another TOP 14 season 2019/2020 gets underway and of course the first game as per usual is against the old foe Castres. Will this be the season everyone is waiting for, a final that we win ? But that’s a long way away and lots of hard work to get through first.

Our new coach Xavier Garbajosa who is now in charge and assisted by P.P.Lafond, with Vern Cotter being moved upstairs in a role of director sportive, maybe this will bring the efforts needed for the Holy Grail. Xavier finished his playing days at Toulouse where he was a player seen to attack at every opportunity, can he bring this attitude to Montpellier who have been known by most as a powerful team who play a game mostly upfront with a massive pack renowned for their rolling mauls. This is often exaggerated by the press as the number of tries scored by the three quarters outweighs the pack big time.

With the World Cup in Japan just around the corner, and Montpellier missing 8 key players, plus the large number of injuries and pre season opps that some players had to endure, the team named by Xavier Garbajosa had a very different look to it with the clubs youngsters playing a large role for this first game of the season, players like Reihlac, Ngandebe, Sanga, Vincent, Delhommel, Devergie and Haouas could all be playing a very important role for the club in the next 2/3months, plus new signings Timu, Fortualii, and ex Vannes player Bouthier.

A very hot day with little wind saw the ref, Thomas Charabas start the game, and Montpellier were soon on the attack with the flying Fijian Jimmy Nagusa scoring the very first try in this season’s TOP 14, already a mention for this out and out attacking winger and the privilege he will hold till the start of next season, the extras were added by Aaron Cruden, 0-7 and an excellent start.

The next 20 mins or so saw a very different game with Montpellier under a little pressure but nothing they could not handle give away penalty after penalty, ill discipline once again and it was penalties given away like Christmas presents silly and far from necessary, if it was a last ditch tackles to save a try that were a little high OK, but illegal shoulder charges in rucks and other similar idiocies just does not do the cause any good. When you have a Rory Kockott who does not miss much, hit 4 in a row and see a 0-7 lead diminished to a 12-7 deficit its enough for the coaches to see red and get very hot under the collar, Cruden did get a penalty to help the score move forward 12-10, but Montpellier did have trouble keeping Castres from scoring during the latter part of the first half. They did however have a good attack just before half time with new signing Caleb Timu going over unopposed after some excellent work from Jimmy Nagusa 12-17 extras added by Cruden.

Finally the ref blew for the break and it was fairly obvious that the team chat by the coaches would be about discipline and not throwing away bucketful of points to the opposition, both teams were evenly matched and with effort Montpellier could take the 4 pts on offer which would be a brilliant start to the season especially away at Castres. The second half started and Montpellier were producing some good running rugby with the ball circulating at speed, giving Castres plenty to think about. Now and again some of the players got a little over ambitious leaving themselves with little support, and often losing the ball in the ruck and mauls, simple is often good when playing a team of Castres capability. Mo Mo Haouas got himself in the bin for a high tackle which was quickly followed by Jaques du Plessis and Montpellier was down to 13 against 15 not the best of situations. Jenneker went over for Castres after a very good rolling maul, the extras was missed by Kockott, he hit the post then the ball rebounded outside so the score, 17-17.

Cruden hit another penalty and moved Montpellier forward 17-20 but Dumora hit 3 penalties on the trot to take Castres advantage to 26-20 again the discipline goes AWOL much to the regret of coach Xavier Garbajosa. Final minutes of the game and Montpellier threw everything bar the kitchen sink at Castres firstly the forwards pounded the Castres try line. After several moves falling just short, the ball was ejected with speed and found young Gabriel Ngandebe who pounced and went over in the corner, conversion to come by Cruden. If it goes over Montpellier win as the siren had already sounded, the conversion was missed and Montpellier went down by 1 point : 26-25. But there was some consolation as the losing bonus point was gained.

The first game of the new season could have gone Montpellier’s way but their ill discipline gave the 4 pts to Castres when with a stricter code of discipline Montpellier could have had their first win away from home of this new season There will be plenty of videos this week and the culprits may have a tough couple of days, but situations like this have to be addressed and eradicated, or the good work produced throughout the game is just thrown away because of a few mistakes. On the other hand not many teams will take the bonus point from Castres at home so that is very positive !

Steve Whittell.