Courage, character and a little blood and guts

Le 06 novembre 2017

This Sunday the visit of French Champions Clermont, a match always relished by players staff and supporters, with this time a little more spice added, as Montpellier head coach Vern Cotter and some of his staff were all together at Clermont for a number of years before their adventure as coaching staff of Scotland. The press was having a field day promoting this clash of giants, but injuries and International call ups had decimated both teams, with some very unfamiliar names on the Clermont bench. But beware anything that comes out of the Clermont Academy is always top notch, and these youngsters do not get many chances at the Elite level to perform so they will be playing their hearts out and causing all sorts of problems for Montpellier if they get the chance.

The match was played at a very intense level and both teams showed they meant business giving the moreorless full house, something to cheer and support. First on the scoreboard was Clermont with arty after a clearance kick from Aaron Cruden which was gathered by Fernandez, who slipped through the very fragile defence score in the corner and the very same added the extras 0-7 for Clermont. Montpellier quickly got back into the game after good work from the pack the ball came out to Nemsie Nadolo who was playing a back line position, gathered and over he went. Francois Steyn added the extras and the scores were level 7-7. The game was being played at break neck speed and only minutes later, Clermont were once again over the line. Some bad defending let in first Toeava who gave the perfect pass to Lee with the try line some 30 meters in front of him he did not fail, diving over in the corner. Once again Fernandez added the extras 7-14 to the visitors. Montpellier were having difficulty defending  as Clermont threw everything at them trying to get a further score. They came very close on numerous occasions, but some last ditch defending just about kept their line safe but they added another penalty by the on form Fernandez 7-17. Just before half time Montpellier attacked the Clermont line and the ball swept out to Francois Steyn who used skill and strength to get over the line with Rougerie trying his best to stop him, but he got the ball down. Benoit Paillaugue added the conversion and Montpellier were within 3 points when the referee blew for halftime the score Montpellier 14 Clermont 17.

This being a Sunday afternoon game, only 10 minutes for half time so the players were back on the park having little time to recuperate, live television is always in charge. From the off Montpellier attacked Clermont and got into an excellent position to score with one player to beat Aaron Cruden threw a lobbed miss pass but the young Betham intercepted and the 100 meters race towards the Montpellier line was on. No one caught him and  over he went, once again Fernandez converted and the gap grew to 14-24. Montpellier got themselves a penalty and touch was found, the ball was gathered by the forwards from the line out. They progressed forward and when everyone thought the ball was going wide Benoît Paillaugue our Little Big Man went on the blind side gave Nemsie Nadolo a gift try, which on course he accepted. Benoît added the extras and the score 21-24.

The last score came in the 58th minute, Aaron Cruden cross kicked to perfection for Francois Steyn who gathered and turned inside to go over for his second try, a magnificent conversion from the touch line by the Little Big Man and Montpellier had their noses in front for the first time in the match 28-24. This gave Montpellier 20minutes to keep ahead. The Montpellier line was pounded for most of that time but some heroic defence somehow kept Clermont at bay. The tackles became more and more physical as the minutes ticked away but Montpellier stuck to their task well and kept their line clean until the final whistle. Both teams are to be commended for this excellent game of fast running rugby with some bone shuddering tackles thrown into the mix, but the spoils and 4 points came to Montpellier, with Clermont having a well deserved bonus point. Man of the Match was Francois Steyn but it could have been others as everyone played their part in a team win. 3 yellow cards and 30 minutes playing against a team like Clermont showed courage and character and if the team continues in this vein they will little wrong.

Johannes Jonker Montpellier’s new tight head prop did extremely well. He only arrived on tuesday from South Africa and Jan Serfontein playing his first for Montpellier showing how classy a 24 years old with 35 International caps to his name can be, when he knows all the calls he will be a great asset to the team. The pack worked hard all afternoon with captain Fulgence Ouedraogo leading from the front and no one shyed in their efforts. This was a team victory and the bench contributed everything they had when their chances appeared later in the game. There was even a rye smile from Coach Vern Cotter a man of few words, who had spoken little of this game but it was obvious to all that this one he wanted badly, so well done Vern and his coaching staff.

Holidays for most of the players and staff, bar the guys on Autumn International duty. The next game is at home on Saturday the 18th of November KO 18.00 against a very on form Stade Toulousain.

Steve Whittell.