ALMOST PERFECT, THE GAME PLAN!!!
Montpellier clear leaders of this season’s TOP 14 were hosts to 2nd place Racing, recent and past happenings between the teams have made the press work overtime and the ink has been flowing excessively again this last week. Montpellier still with injury problems and now missing Benoit Paillaugue for the rest of the season, also had 4 players on International duty making team selection a problem for Vern Cotter. Racing also had there problems missing several players who were on the team sheet for the France vs England in Paris which was to immediately follow this game.
This was the best attacking team Montpellier against the best defensive team Racing, so everyone present at the Stadium Altrad or in their armchairs at home were expecting something special. The game got under way and both teams tested each other in every way possible, both showing that they could defend their lines and attack with ball in hand, there was plenty of work for the fullbacks as long range kicking down field was going to be plentiful, but Montpellier had the upper hand in that department, both Jessie Mogg and Francois Steyn were far superior in their placement of the ball down field whereas Racing tended to just hoof it anywhere to relieve the pressure. First points came from Jan Serfontein, Aaron Cruden picked up a loose ball on the Racing 22 and passed to Jan Serfontein he chip kicked ahead collected his own kick and was unstoppable, try given by Mon Poite and Ruan Pienaar added the extras 7-0 to Montpellier. Ruan Pienaar added other penalty minutes later to given Montpellier an early 10-0 lead, and just before halftime penalties one a piece from Pienaar and Lambie, the ref blew for the pause with the score 13-3 to Montpellier. The home team was playing to Vern Cotters game plan to near perfection, very few mistakes and when ever in their own 22 a massive Francois Steyn boot to clear their lines and the defensive tackling was second to none with all 15 players on the park trying their ultimate best for their coach and President.
The second half got under way and it was not long before Montpellier started to show explosive power, Jimmy Nagusa flew down the wing, Martin Devergie was there to take the pass, he made good yards before giving a perfect pass to Nico Van Rensberg who with a good 25mts to the line accelerated and left the World behind him, and a little dive to finish off his try, not bad at all for a second row who normally is in the thick of most things, the extras were added by Pienaar a superb kick from the touch line and Montpellier were building a comfortable lead 20-3. Hardly time to adjust and off went Montpellier again attacking near the line and the ball was given to Jan Serfontein from 10mts out, with force, determination, and speed he crashed over for his second and Montpellier’s third, again Pienaar added the extras and Montpellier had a bonus point and a comfortable lead 27-3. Racing looked at times very dangerous but the Montpellier defence was superb and the gates were closed and Racing looking down hearted as they could not pass that try line even with 10 mins. in the bin for Jannie du Plessis and down to 14, Montpellier defended like men possessed and gave nothing to Racing but crumbs with no cake. Jimmy Nagusa was the next on the score sheet, scrum 10mts out and Jimmy took the ball from Aaron Cruden, unstoppable from that distance a mini Nadolo equally efficient, once again Pienaar was on target and this was beginning to look like a drubbing for Racing 34-3. Captain Louis Picamoles was next, a ruck 5 mts out he looks up sees everyone has gone either left of right leaving the front door wide open for one of the easiest tries of his illustrious career, again Pienaar was on target and the score moved onto a thumping 41-3, the ref decided enough was enough and blew for full time shortly afterwards. Game plans are made for a reason but not always executed to perfection, this one was and against the best defensive team in the Championship, showing that given the chance Montpellier can calm a beast that came looking for points but left with nothing. Serfontein, Pienaar, Steyn Cruden all played a massive part but so did all the Montpellier players, Captain Louis, led from the front aided by Fulgence Ouedraogo, the forwards full of character and guile, everybody seeks perfection and rarely finds it, this was probably as close as you will ever get, it was certainly good enough on the day to send Racing back home very sore and equally sad, an excellent result which Montpellier merited 100%.
Next Sunday March 18th ko. 16.50, the boys are away at Toulouse another massive game but now 8points clear of second place Racing things are looking good for the remaining 6 games left before the playoffs, although everyone of those games are incredibly tough, so total respect to all and extreme dedication in the work load will have to be upheld if Montpellier are to keep on this merry path to Utopia.