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INSIPID START TO THE NEW SEASON

Le 14 septembre 2020

After last weeks defeat at home to Pau in the last minutes of the game, Montpellier were in Paris to take on Racing who have high intentions this season, and have a ¼ final Champions Cup game  to play from the Covid disrupted last season. Xavier Garbajosa had more or less picked the same team as last week despite some very poor performances from several players, only Kelian Galletier was demoted to the bench, the rest was as last week against Pau. Hopefully this week the scrum has had due attention as it was one of the very weak spots in last weeks game, to make things even harder the bus apparently got lost in Paris and arrived at the Stadium with only ½ hour on the clock for the boys to change and have their warm up before the ko. no where near ideal to start a game against opposition who are looking for trophies this season.

The game got under way and it was all Racing with Finn Russell at N.10 making the Montpellier defence  work overtime, his changes in pace and distribution whether by hand or foot kept the boys struggling to keep Racing out. The first score was a penalty for Racing, after last weeks disastrous penalty count of 23 against, which was the highest of the first day of this season’s TOP 14, Montpellier set off in the same vein and gave away 13 in the first half which is far too many, it did improve in the second half only 6, but still it is far too many against class teams, maybe back to the classroom to learn by heart the new laws which are being interpreted by the referees to the letter. The first try came for Racing in the 11th minute when Teddy Baubigny went over in force helped by his forwards, the extras were added by Teddy Iribaren, 8-0 for Racing, another penalty minuts later increased the lead to 11-0, finally Montpellier did get on the scoreboard with a Pollard penalty in the 25th min. Camara received his second yellow just before half time in as many matches after another fault on the floor, already struggling to stay in contention playing with only 14 on the park is not going to help Montpellier’s cause. Teddy Iribaren added the 3 points.Racing again attacked on Montpellier’s 5 meters line and this time it was a yellow for Forletta who was having great difficulty staying on his feet in the scrum, this meant Montpellier were down to 13 on the Park and a 5 meters scrum to come. The blindside of the scrum had a 2 to 1 advantage for Racing nothing easier for an attacking side, 2 passes and Juan Imhoff strolled over for one of the easiest tries of his career, the extras were missed, the referee blew for the break and Racing were already 19-3 ahead with only 40 minuts to play and the start of the second half Montpellier still had only 13 on the park.

The second half got underway, with Momo Haouas and Micha taking up their respective front row posts hopefully the scrum will be more competitive in the second half, but it again started badly for Montpellier, Russell chip kicked a beauty for Vakatwa to collect and leave everybody for dead, his pace did the rest and over he went, Iribaren knocked over the extras from the touchline and Racing went to a very comfortable 26-3 lead. 49 minut and another kick from Russell this time a cross kick for Classen who was lurking on the touchline he collected and strolled over unmarked too easy. The score moved onto 31-3 and this could be a real drubbing for Montpellier. Racing and Beale got a red card for a very high tackle this season the referees are not being tolerant if its neck or head high them more often than not its red, Racing down to 14 a very meagre chance for Montpellier, can they take advantage of the situation. They got 2 tries back from Van Rensburg and a classic All Black final try from Reinach, where the line out separates in the middle to leave the scrum half free entry through the middle, inbetween the 2 blocks of forwards to gallop all the way to the Racing try line, Bouthier added the extras with a drop goal and Racing had lost their bonus point 34-17. The final 5 minuts were played on the Montpellier 5 meters line and finally and after a couple of penalty touches Kolingar went over with force and Machenaud added the extras, final score Racing 41 Montpellier17, and Racing reobtained their bonus point 5 tries to 2. All in all there was only one team on the park and it was not Montpellier some very hard work needs to done in the next 2 weeks before the next match.

We are back to last season’s Euro 1/4 finals for the next 2 weeks so Montpelier will have ample time to get several problems sorted, the scrum needs lots of attention although it improved in the second half with Momo and Misha, the huge problem is the penalty count, 42 penalties in 2 games, unbelievable but true, and most either from the scrum or infringements on the deck, this has to be sorted and quickly, Xavier Garbajosa and staff will have their work cut out before the next match at home to the  always problematic Castres. At least we all know that there is plenty of hard work and concentration on the horizon for the boys in the next couple of weeks. Heads down hard work and get stuck in to bring back some kind of joy for their supporters and of course for themselves, PRIDE needs to be restored.

Steve Whittell.