Christmas comes early for Clermont
The match that most had been waiting for, the leaders Clermont coming to Montpellier who for the moment are struggling to find their true potential in this season’s TOP 14. A very good crowd of 13,387 were present to see this game, and over the last few seasons Montpellier have come out winners, both home and away.
M. Poite started the game and it was Montpellier who attacked Clermont, but their defence was water tight and there seemed no way through. Although the ball was thrown about it was individual attempts at scoring and little collective structure which was maybe the down fall in the opening 10 mins. Clermont started to gain in confidence and camped in the Montpellier half they threw the ball out from a ruck some neat passing and Fofana went over unopposed with most of the Montpellier defence watching in awe. The extra were added by Parra and Clermont were 7points to the good.
Pienaar kicked 3 penalties to get Montpellier back in the game and take the lead 9-7; this was mostly from their dominant scrum which was giving Clermont many problems. In the dying minutes of the first half Clermont got themselves a penalty which Lopez knocked over to take a 1pt. lead as the ref blew for the break. Half time score Montpellier 9 Clermont 10.
The second half started with Clermont thinking it was Christmas come early, first Cruden attempted a cross kick for his winger which was painfully short, the young Penaud gathered just off his own try line and left 4 Montpellier defenders for dead with his pace and arrived under the sticks after a 100mts dash unopposed, the extras were added by Lopez and another 7pts for Clermont 9-17. Lopez knocked over a drop goal which is becoming one of his trademarks to make the score 9-20. To make matters even worse Kelian Galletier had been on the park for just 4mins and off he went with the ref showing him a yellow card, not really his fault it was the fault that was too many after ¾ infringements by the home side.
In the 57min. the next Christmas pressie given to Clermont by their hosts Montpellier, Raka broke down the wing and grubber kicked towards the try line, but Jim Nagusa had it covered, well most thought he had it covered, he dived on the ball taking it over the try line but was never in control and up stepped Toeava to score the easiest try of his career. All he had to do was place his hands on the ball, this Christmas pressie came with ribbons, bows and all, he nearly had the time to write the card with Merry Christmas. This took the score to 9-28 with only 20mins or so to play, a vey difficult task for the hosts Montpellier and a third home game looking lost.
Enter the younger players of Montpellier, Sanga, Giudicelli, Vincent, Haouas, and Reilhac. They tried to turn this game around, and after a good maul close to the Clermont line, Giudicelli went over Steyn added the extras, 16-28, in the very last minute of the game a scrum and Clermont gifted Montpellier with a try. The ball came loose and the young Reilhac pounced and over he went, Steyn again added the extras and Montpellier were in defensive bonus point country : 23-28. There was time for the restart but it came to nothing and the ref blew for time and what Clermont thought could be Christmas dinner, they had kindly accepted the presents and were now ready for the turkey.
This season 3 home defeats, last season unbeaten at home, there is certainly water in the gas. Far too many individuals going alone without players on their shoulders making attacks fizzle out to nothing and often loosing the ball which makes matter even worse, and still mistakes in many areas of the play. In the first half Montpellier dominate the scrums, in the second half they were dominated. There is still plenty of time to get back into the TOP 6, but a different outlook and mentality will be required.
The next two weeks see a home and away Champions Cup tie with Toulon, who are not doing great themselves, but we have never won at Mayol so maybe it’s the right time to kick start this competition and the rest of the TOP 14 season putting a smile back on the face of our President Mohed Altrad, who is suffering at the moment through no fault of his own !