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A PERFORMANCE OF CHARACTER AND CONFIDENCE

Le 22 février 2021

The visit this weekend to Agen was fraught with danger, Agen had played 15 games and lost 15 games, who were going to be the first team to fall under this regime and become the first. It did happen a few seasons back to Montpellier with USAP, but surely this could not be Montpellier’s destiny yet again. Montpellier did lose Benoit Paillaugue in the teams warm up which needed a fair amount of shuffling of the three quarters, Alex Lozowski moved to 10 from centre, Yvan Reihlac repositioned at centre and Gabriel Ngandebe stepped in as a last minute replacement on the wing.

Both teams battled hard for the first 15mins and this was going to be no walk over for Montpellier, Agen knew that this could be their first win of the season as everyone knew that the Montpellier confidence was not at its best. However first blood was drawn by the boys with a penalty from Lozowski, 0-3 this was quickly levelled by Agen with one of their own from ex Montpellierian Raphaël Lagarde 3-3. The game flowed back and forwards with Agen getting the more of possession but Montpellier’s defence held strong and kept them away from the danger zone. As the first 30 minuts approached Caleb Timu burst down the wing and went over in the corner, after some great work from Cobus Reinach, the extras were missed and Montpellier had a slender 3-8 led. This lasted just 2 minuts as Agen scored one of their own Tevita Railevu was the scorer and Raphaël Lagarde added the extras to give Agen a first time lead 10-8 the very same added another penalty and the score advanced to 13-8 for Agen.

This was the score at half time and although Montpellier were still in the game they had wasted loads of chances with some poor handling and a scrum that did not look too good. Words need to be spoken at half time if Montpellier were to turn this around and get the better of their opponents

Second half got underway and in the 46th minuts a mistake from Vaka gave Jan Serfontein a chance, he off loaded to Cobus Reinach who did the rest, with the extras added Montpellier had regained the lead 13-15. Montpellier started to get more ball and their movement down the park looked a lot healthier, Raphaël Lagarde slotted another penalty to regain the lead for Agen 16-15, this game could go all the way to the wire before a winner is apparent. Gela Aprasidze came on at No 9 and started to show his very young class, the ball was shot out from the base of the scrum and Montpellier started to look more refreshed in their display. The very same gave the ball to Thomas Darmon who went over, a great conversion from the touchline gave Montpellier a lead of 16-22, once again Agen replied with another penalty this time from Verdu 19-22, and still anyone’s game. Montpellier bounced back in the last 20 minuts with tries from Julien Tisseron double and another Alex Lozowski penalty taking the final score to 19-39, giving Montpellier a well fought victory and of course that all important attacking bonus point.

At the final whistle there were no massive signs of joy from Montpellier just a relief that hopefully this was the start of the counter campaign that would bring Montpellier out of the Doldrums and into a position in the TOP 14 they are more used to. They also moved up the Championship into 11th position after Pau lost at home to Toulon a much healthier position. Man of the Match was Caleb Timu, outstanding in both defence and attack, Gela Aprasidze the pocket rocket did well as his game time is nowhere near enough and Thomas Darmon back from injury is still knocking on the door for a first start at No 10. Although Agen played with guts and determination, Montpellier was far too strong in the last 20 minuts and finished easy winners but they had to wait 60 minuts before they started to dominate the home team. The full 5 points will give the team heaps of confidence which has been sadly lacking, as the next few weeks they have some tough games on their hands.

Steve Whittell.