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The curse of Castres continues

Le 27 août 2018

The new TOP 14 season commenced this weekend with Montpellier playing the last match of the first day, their opponents Castres. It seems only a short time that Montpellier were losing that all important match for the privilege of keeping the Bouclier for the following 12 months but you have to be in the final to loose it. 12 other teams did not take part !

Montpellier have their fare share of injuries at the start of this season with as many as 7/8 injuries to first team candidates. But this what happens sometimes and you have to deal with at whether good or bad. The weather for this first game at home was very hot with the sun beating down on the newly named GGL Stadium with a slight breeze blowing from the south. The coach Vern Cotter named Wiaan Liebenberg as Captain for this first game of the season. A first for Wiaan in the TOP 14. The first half was evenly poised with both teams having their better moments. Penalties were shared by Johan Goosen and Urdapiletta 3-3, the first try was scored by Martin Devergie and converted by new recruit Johan Goosen, giving Montpellier a slender lead of 10-3. Minutes later Castres knocked over another penalty to take their score to 10-6 but this was replied again by Goosen to keep that 7pts. lead.

Castres were trying their level best to gain an advantage and in the 31st min. when some very poor defending from a ruck 30mts out gave Speddding a moreorless walk over try not far from the touchline. Again Urdapilleta converted and the scores were level at 13-13, the  scores stayed unchanged until the ref  Mathieu Raynal blew for the break and a well needed rest as the sun was hot and both teams were suffering in this torrid late August heat.

The second half started with Castres meaning business. They gained possession after some poor work from the home side and then pounded the Montpellier try line before Capo Ortega was credited with a try after the ref had gone to video. The forward slap seemed to go unnoticed by both ref and video but certainly not the crowd who pleaded for the infringement. Again Urdapilleta converted and a mini break for Castres 13-20. This seemed to give Castres the courage they were looking for and they slowly but surely started to get the upper hand. Their 3rd try was not long in coming again Scott Spedding had the honours, Dumora who had replaced Urdapelleta missed the conversion but Castres now had a 12 points lead :13-25.

Montpellier were making far too many mistakes and were forgetting the 15 man game plan with individuals using the ball well but lacking total support from their team mates, this can’t happen at this level as it just complicates all issues. Montpellier did get a try back from Paul Willemse again Goosen converted 20-25, with just 15 minutes left, Montpellier still had the chance to take the points from this match. The last 10 minutes saw Montpellier camped on the Castres try line. Twice the video ref was involved a push over try by the forwards and then Vincent Martin just fleured the touch line as he tried to get the ball down for that all important winning try. Tt was not Montpellier’s day both refused upstairs by the video ref, finally the hooter sounded and Montpellier had lost their first game of the season 20-25.

This game was won by Castres taking their chances well, and having a defence of immense proportions in the last 10mins, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at their opponents, they never flinched and every attack was met with crunching tackles that frustrated Montpellier until the final whistle. This was not the result Vern Cotter was looking for but 15mins from time Montpellier had zero pts. they did get the bonus defensive point but that was little consolation. All in all, the mistakes were abundant from the home side, some poor passing and very elementary errors coming from players who should know better. Yes there are many injuries to key players but with a squad of 40+ the others need to step up to the mark and show their worth.

This is by no means a disaster, as the season is hard and long, but results like this at home need to be eradicated immediately. This coming week will be hard work and little fun for the boys who will be thrown through their paces by an unhappy coach. Next Saturday evening, Montpellier have their 2nd  home game of the season the opponents La Rochelle, kick-off18.00. Another game where the visitors will be coming to try and upset our boys.

Steve Whittell.