CLERMONT PUT TO THE SWORD

Le 13 mars 2017

Montpellier after a disastrous loss against Lyon last weekend had the immense task of going to Clermont looking for something in a fortress that has not lost a single game this season, Montpellier have won before in Clermont but it’s a very rare occasion, and normally they come away battered and bruised showing little else for there journey into the Volcano country.

Francois Steyn was back at 10 after his suspension and normally Nadalo as well, but he took a knock in training on Friday and did not make the trip.

The Georgians were playing for their country v Russia so a brand new front row of Fichten, Bismark du Plessis, and Guillamon was being tested for the very first time.

The first 10 mins. the players tested each other with some massive hits, the ball was being thrown about, but both defences stood tight, this was not going to be an easy match to ref and Mon Attalah was going to be a very busy man this  sunny Sun. afternoon.

First score went to Montpellier a high ball into the in goal area and Abendanon knocked the ball back only for Joe Tomane to catch and ground, the easiest try he will ever score, Francois Steyn missed the extras. Montpellier were hassling and harrowing the home team, going up quickly to defend and making some excellent hard tackles often dislodging the ball making everything very difficult for Clermont.

Minutes later after a fine tackle by Fall on Rougerie the ball was lost and it came out to the young Reilhac, who ran a perfect course, straightening and waiting to the very last second before impact to off load to Nagusa who had only to run in for another 5points, again Steyn missed the extras 0-10 to Montpellier.

Parra got two penalties back for Clermont 6-10 and Montpellier need to have a good look at their discipline as easy penalties like these two could well bring Clermont right back into the game. Montpellier were still looking the better team on the park and those first two tries had silenced the massive crowd of around 18,000 who are not used to seeing their team under the cosh for such long periods of time.

Just before half time Montpellier attacked once again and after a series of forwards crashing towards the line, Bismark du Plessis  dived over for the 3rd try, this time Steyn added the extras and Montpellier went to the break 6-17 to the good. Impossible to think of wins and bonus points at this stage, but at half time Montpellier had both, could they hold on to them that was the question and 40 mins. left to do it.

The second half started brilliantly for Montpellier Fulgence Ouedraogo stole a ball from Brett it came to Dumoulin and then on to Tomane, for him to run the touch and score under the posts, the ref went to the video and the tiniest of knock-ons from Fulgence and the try was disallowed but this gave Montpellier even more confidence to keep moving forward and defending with the greatest of skills.

Parra added another penalty 9-17, after Guillamon was once again left on the floor his positioning in the scrum needs to be addressed before any more penalties are conceded, this led to Clermont starting to show their worth in attack, and a brilliant move in the middle saw a gap for Strettle who ran in the first try for Clermont, the extras were added by Parra and Clermont were back in the game 16-17.

The 60th min Steyn added a penalty for Montpellier 16-20 to keep their noses in front, but this game was building to an almighty climax and still nobody was sure who would come out with the victory. Exactly one minute later Montpellier were again pounding the Clermont line, the ball came to scrum half Nic White who throw a massive lobbed pass out to the wing and there was Benjy Fall just waiting to dive over, again Steyn missed the extras but apart from that he was doing everything else right, 16-25 to Montpellier, and they had recovered their attacking bonus point could they now hold onto it with 20mins. to go

Another penalty in the 66th min. by Parra and Clermont were still in this game 19-25, minutes later another scrum and Guillamon went down this time the ref showed yellow to the tighthead prop, far too many  scrum infringements for the refs liking, Montpellier down to 14 for the last 10 mins. of the game and  Clermont were certainly going to exploit the situation, more defence for Montpellier could they hold out.

Even with 14 on the park Montpellier attack and Francois Steyn who was not having the best day with his place kicking wacked over a drop goal from 35mts out to push the score to 19-28.

Clermont tried their level best to get back but the Montpellier defence held strong for the last few minutes although the Montpellier line was often under pressure, finally the last scrum of the game Montpellier needed to win it and expel the ball out of the ground, this they did and Paillaugue who had replaced Nic White had the honours, game over. Clermont 19 Montpellier 28.

4 tries to one and that magical attacking bonus point, the players were ecstatic and knew full well this was a massive victory over a very good team who had an unbeaten home record until today. Montpellier are back in 3rd place just 3pts behind Clermont with Racing at home next Saturday evening ko. 20.45.

This was a victory constructed by Jake White and his coaches Shaun Sowerby, and Scott Wisemantel, a game plan that the players used effectively and although they did give away a few silly penalties, their discipline was reasonably good. The players showed great individuality and also the teamwork was outstanding especially in defence in some high pressure moments, the younsters Reilhac and Galletier, were outstanding, Fulgence led his troops from the front and Steyn once again showed why he is Montpellier’s best option at 10. Team spirit will take you a long way in this game and Montpellier showed they have it and have turned a massive corner in the fight for that infamous Bouclier de Brennus. There are more difficult matches to come but Montpellier can now look ahead to an exciting end of season battle.

 

Steve Whittell.