ROLL ON NEXT SEASON
What a finish to this season, Montpellier Lyon and Brive had just honour to play for, while the other 11 teams could either qualify for the TOP 6 playoffs or become one of two teams who would be involved in a barrage match vs Biarritz to claim the last place in next season’s TOP 14, as Perpignan has already claimed the first place available by winning the ProD2 final.
Montpellier had the difficult task of a visit to Pau who was one the two teams in jeopardy of playing Pro D2 next season along with Bayonne, who finished 13th would have that honour, Agen were already relegated to the second tier after their disastrous season having not won one game throughout the whole season.
Montpellier fielded a team of youth and experience as the injury list was getting so large the clubs medical centre could need enlarging if this continued, hopefully holidays and complete rest for many players was on the agenda after another long and very difficult season, Montpellier having played the most games this season along with Toulouse and La Rochelle as all 3 clubs competed in Euro Champions and Challenge finals.
The game did not start well for Montpellier who conceded a try in the opening minutes from Aminiasi TUIMABA with the extras added by Antoine HASTOY, 7-0 for Pau, Handré POLLARD knocked over a penalty for Montpellier to reduce the score to 7-3 but the boys were playing on the back foot and having to defend more than they attacked. Pau were on fire and creating many problems for Montpellier 2 more tries came from Tumua MANU and Matt PHILIP, moving the score onto 19-3, Antoine HASTOY kicked another penalty for Pau and just before half time Montpellier got their first try of the game, a clever kick from Anthony BOUTHIER, and Julien TISSERON collected and scampered to the line, Handré POLLARD passed the extras and when the break arrived Montpellier were down 22-10, but Pau no longer had the bonus point.
Second half started and first to score was Handré POLLARD with a penalty, Montpellier were creeping towards the Pau score line, slowly bur surely.
This was always going to be a high scoring game as Pau needed a bonus point win so penalties were out of the window and penal touches were the order of the day, however with both teams in attacking mode mistakes were going to be made and mistakes often finish with tries.
The tries were coming fast and furious Malie for Pau then two for Montpellier first Cobus REINACH then Martin DEVERGIE and Montpellier started to believe they could win this game, 27-20 and still 27 minuts left on the clock. Aminiasi TUIMABA got his second try of the game, but still no bonus point for Pau. Both teams were throwing the pigskin about with abundance and in the 80th minut. Pau got that all important 6th try through Matt PHILIP who gave them the bonus point and a final 45-25 victory.
Now all they needed to know was, whether Stade Francais had beaten Bayonne just down the road, Canal brought on a mobile TV for Pau as they watched the final few minutes from Bayonne, the ref blew for full time and Stade Francais came out winners 9-12, Pau survive to fight another day with a massive celebration by all, and Bayonne have the difficult task of going to their arch enemy Biarritz for the most important of Basque derbies to see who plays TOP 14 rugby next season..
Montpellier’s season was far from their best but after changing coaches half way through the season they managed to fight themselves out of a very deep hole and finish in 10th place, not great but the icing and a massive cherry on the cake was the Euro Challenge Cup victory over Leicester in Twickenham, this gives Montpellier Champions Cup rugby next season with all the Big Boys and a chance to try and learn from this season’s mistakes and progress automatically into a TOP 6 spot next season.
Holidays and complete rest for all, especially the massive number of injured players and hopefully the start of next season in Sept. will have a stronger mentality and a renewed energy for bigger and better results.
Finally a massive thank you to all players and staff who will be leaving the club this end of season, we wish them all the very best in their new adventures and to Nicolaas JANSE VAN RENSBURG for his Springbok selection vs the British and Irish Lions this summer alongside Handré POLLARD and Cobus REINACH.