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Discipline costs Montpellier the game

Le 05 mars 2018

We are getting to that stage of the season, where every point counts and every game becomes a battle. Points to stay up and avoid relegation, points to get into that Top 6, and for 2 teams that all important first 2 places where direct qualification into the semis without a qualifying quarter final game, which makes the away game at Agen even more important. The home team on a high after last week’s away victory at Stade Francais, and Montpellier holding that No1 spot and a direct semi-final playoff place.

After this weeks terrible weather around Montpellier, there the team had outside training difficulties because of the snow, they were still ready for another all important away fixture at Agen. Never take anything for granted because of TOP 14 positions one team fighting for survival and the other for glory and a semi-final playoff place. The match had a disastrous start for Montpellier, after just 6 mins. Jarrad Hoeta was shown a red card for dangerous play in the ruck, maybe a little harsh but the ref was not changing his decision and Montpellier was down to 14 for the next 74mins.

However they fought like demons and were two tries to the good after only 14 mins. the first from Louis Picamoles from close quarters and the second saw Jessie Mogg dive over the try line unopposed after excellent work from all the backs, both converted by Ruan Pienaar, Agen 0 Montpellier 14. It did not take long for Agen to get the upper hand, playing against 14 there will always be gaps in the defence and a scrum lacking in brawn and bulk due to the red card, tries from Mchedlidze and Sadie followed, both converted by McIntyre, Montpellier did get another 3 pts. from a Pienaar penalty giving them a very slender 14-17 lead this was beginning to be a nightmare for Montpellier. Paul Williams was pinged by the video ref for an off the ball incident which finished with a yellow for the second row forward down to 13 players and no locks on the field. 

Agen took full advantage of the superior numbers and went over for their third try this time it was McIntyre, he added the conversion 21-17, the next 10 mins. were going to be very difficult for Montpellier, 13 against 15 is virtually impossible to defend specially without both locks in the ensuing scrums, the ref blew for half time with the score 21-17 Montpellier looked tired and desperate and there was still a couple of mins. playing with 13 at the start of the second half. The second half started again in catastrophe, a try by Agen from the off, kick and chase by Nakosi who dived over onto his kick, the extras were added and the gap created 27-17 to the hosts.

Montpellier again managed to fight back, a try from Joe Tomane after another clever grubber kick from Francois Steyn the conversion was missed, 28-22, but another fault this time from Fichten and McIntyre landed another penalty for Agen 31-22 with just 20mins to play. Montpellier were trying their level best to get on terms with their hosts and got another try from Romain Ruffenach, the extras were added this time by Aaron Cruden 31-29

Montpellier had their tails up and they went all out to try and win this game after pounding the Agen try line they got their chance with very kickable a penalty, the effort went just wide by Aaron Cruden, so close yet so far away. In the dying seconds Benoit Paillaugue went down badly and had to be stretchered off, this his first game back, and looking at the pain he was in, this could be his last for a certain time.

Final score Agen 31 Montpellier 29, yes a defensive bonus point but it could have been so much more, discipline gone AWOL, and playing 13 for 10 mins. is just not containable in this modern game. This was a great effort under the circumstances by the boys, but once again discipline threw victory out of the window when they were so close to taking the 4pts. Already Montpellier have problems in the second row with injuries and things not looking great with a discipline hearing coming up for Jarrod Hoeta probably this week or the following week.

Next match Saturday March 10th ko. 14.45 Montpellier are the hosts to Racing 92 who are just 3 tiny points behind leaders Montpellier, a must win for the boys at all costs as the next 4 weeks Montpellier have Racing at home, Toulouse away, then Castres and La Rochelle at home, 3 of the top 6 playing each other and at the very least home wins for Montpellier if they want one of those Top 2 places for the end of season playoffs, going directly into a semi-final place.

Steve Whittell.