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Le 23 mai 2016

If Montpellier are to become a club of champions, winning is the most important of all, without, the fields are barren, confidence and moral low, that is why Saturday’s match vs Bordeaux Begles had to be won at all costs (well nearly). Bordeaux still not sure of a 6th play-off place need points; on the other hand, Montpellier could secure their own play-off place in the Top 6. Already qualified for Champions Cup next season the eyes are firmly set on a minimum 2nd place and direct ascension into the Top 14 play-off semis, so victory against Bordeaux and Toulon at home next week is primordial. This is now what they call in France “the money time” everyone desperate for points and everyone trying to not give any away, and with Bordeaux, Toulon, at home and the final game of the season at Racing, Montpellier have a mountain to climb. Jake White selected what is probably just about his best XV plus bench, trying to get the 4 points, Bordeaux were thinking completely different, they need points and were coming to get them.

Bordeaux are a team of ball in hand players, they move fast and any weaknesses in defence they will exploit, they also know how to keep the ball, giving the opposition little chance to attack. This they did with great expertise giving hardly any chances to Montpelier in the first half, and Montpellier were camped in their own half for much of the first 40 mins. defending. The home team defended with pure guts and intelligence, there was no way through for Bordeaux to cross that try line. Montpellier were dominant in the scrums and loose but line outs were clearly a problem, plus whether the euphoria of last weeks Euro Challenge Cup Final victory was still firmly embedded in their minds, small mistakes were creeping in where normally they are not to be see. Penalties were the only scores in the first half, Demitri Catrakilis hitting 3 while Hickey managed just the one for Bordeaux who came very close to scoring through their prop Kitschoff after a great charge from close quarters, but he was held up just short, Jimmy Nagusa tried his best on the wing but a foot in touch also stopped him from scoring the ref Mon Raynal was having a very bad day and some of his decisions  were far from clear, and unfortunately for Montpellier he did not improve in the 2nd half. Half time score Montpellier 9 Bordeaux 3.

The 2nd half started  badly for Montpelier after an off the ball tackle on Spies Bordeaux kicked the ball forward and Serin the Bordeaux scrum half beat Bismark du Plessis in the sprint to the line, try and conversion for Bordeaux, the score 12-10 to the hosts. Two penalties in 2 mins. for Bordeaux after silly errors, and Bordeaux had crept into the lead 12-16 with just 19 mins. left on the clock. This sort of situation is where Champions are made or broken, patience intelligence and will power are a must and Montpellier did just that, penalty 5mts. out and Catrakilis put the ball into touch, line ball won and the forwards moved into the hallowed ground, and a 9th try for Bismark du Plessis, Catrakilis converted and Montpellier retook the lead 19-16. The last 10 mins. Montpellier  were in control but missed out on a good try from Jessie Mogg when try scorer Bismark du Plessis was penalised for illegal use of the elbow, he was also giving his marching orders with a 3rd  yellow card of the season, so he will miss next weeks clash at home vs Toulon. The last few minutes Montpellier continued to attack but could not get over the Bordeaux line, there was a 5 mins. scrum for Montpellier and although one player down, Francois Steyn immediately went and played back row to keep the scrum and weight advantage for his team, intelligence and experience from this South African International, although they did not score it kept Bordeaux on their own try line and to win they needed to travel the 90 mts; Montpellier were never going to let that happen. The siren sounded with Bordeaux in possession, a try and they were winners, but to everyone’s disbelief Heini Adams hoofed the ball out of play, game over, very bizarre!!!

This was not Montpellier’s greatest game but at the end of the day the 4pts obtained were worth their weight in gold, Champions win, sometimes it’s ugly, sometimes its Champagne rugby, whatever happens Winning is important, and today Montpellier proved that beyond any doubt. Once again the forwards created the platform for this victory they were all excellent, alongside a very secure boot of Demitri Catrakilis, Fulgence Ouedraogo lead his troops from the front, and the backs shined in defence, there will be better games but “Winning Ugly” is just as important!!!

Next Sunday KO. 20.45, another almighty battle, Toulon and its team of World Class players are coming to town, hard work this week in training and hopefully another solid performance to secure that much sort after 2nd place and direct ascension into the play-off semis.

Steve Whittell.