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MONTPELLIER’S STONE WALL DEFENCE = VICTORY…

Le 03 mai 2021

Euro Challenge Cup semi against Bath at the Recreation Ground would need to bring out the best of any players or any team as its one very difficult place to play, unfortunately we are still with Covid restrictions so no supporters just travelling players and staff, plus the same for Bath.
Although Montpellier’s season is one of no greatness today they have the chance to at least compete in a Twickenham final v Leicester if they win this duel. The team selection was good and finally it was excellent to see Handré POLLARD back on the bench after his long injury lay off.

The game started and it was all Bath they scored the first try of the game after only 3 mins. a lost touch and the forwards pounded the Montpellier line, and finally Dunn went over the extras were added by the young Bailey 7-0 for Bath.

Montpellier had long moments where they defended, but they defended well keeping the Bath forwards at bay with some ferocious tackling, Benoit PAILLAUGUE slotting his first penalty points of the game 7-3, and on the 23rd minutes. a little chip kick from La Paille caught out Bath, Vincent Rattez collected and drew the last defender, the perfect pass to Yacouba Camara, who raced the last 30mts to go over for Montpellier’s first try of the game Benoit PAILLAUGUE added the extras and Montpellier had a slender lead of 7-10.

That was soon cancelled out with a Ben Spencer penalty 10-10, but the minutes just before half time gave 2 penalties chances to Montpellier and Benoit PAILLAUGUE slotted both to give the Boys a 10-16 half time lead, but this match was far from over and with 40 minutes left to play it was still anyone’s game.

The second half got underway and fire was probably spoken in the Bath changing room at half time, as they came out firing all their guns, they battered the Montpellier try line time and time again, and every time the Montpellier brick wall defence was hit it stayed strong, but with a ferocious battering rarely seen, could it stay intact and strong, the longer the game went on the more Montpellier were cemented on their own try line. Under normal situations there is always a moment when this defence wall cracks, but this evening it was not the case. The Bath forwards kept their intensity on the  Montpellier try line but the boys held firm, and they was a tender moment when Mercer who will be Montpellerian next season was told by Bismark Du Plessis this is how you defend in France with your life on the line!! Enzo Forletta got himself a yellow for offside but it could have gone to any of the forwards as standing on your own try line defending is so easy to just creep forward into an offside position.

Again and again Bath swept forward and continued to pounder the Montpellier try line but the defence held strong and there were some magnificent steals in the rucks by Capt Fu Fu, Bismark and Alex Becognee who saved the day several times and had a stormer of a game stealing many balls in the tackle
In the dying moments of the game Montpellier swept down field and got themselves a penalty Handre Pollard knocked it over and Montpellier had a 9pts. lead 10-19, game over and Montpellier march on to a final at Twickenham Fri. 21ST of May v Leicester, and there will be supporters present.

Man of the Match was given to Paul Williams but I think everyone deserved it, Alex Becognee, Florian Verhaeghe, Guilhem Guirado, and Paul Willemse were outstanding.

This was a dog fight where BLOOD and GUTS, followed by big hearts, aggression and 15 men plus the bench playing as one for the club and that was the difference tonight.

This season has not been the best for Montpellier and they have too many games to get through before the final caused by cancellations due to Covid, but we should survive in the TOP 14 and this could be the cherry, icing and chocolate on the cake for Montpellier, memories of 2016 in Lyon v Harlequins and the clubs 1st Euro Challenge Cup victory.

A deserved victory, hard fought, not pretty, but when the mental is in the right place it’s difficult to say just how far this team can progress, tonight the “Battle of the Trenches” was won by Montpellier.

Steve Whittell.