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Last weekend Montpellier wrote themselves into the record books, with their first ever victory away from home in Toulouse by the narrowest of margins 12-15. One week later Montpellier is the hosts to Perpignan. Years gone by these games were massive derbies with all the hostility that a derby brings, but in today’s rugby with all the imports from around the World now playing, the edge has gone off the word derby, but for the supporters it is and always will be a very different matter, the hostility is passed down by generations, and is there to create a unique atmosphere, rugby can be hostile but very rarely crosses that no go line, the proof, an excellent attendance of 12,468 were there to see the game Montpellier fielded a very strong team despite the long injury list that is still handicapping the club and had Francois Trinh-Duc back from international duty which is always an asset, whatever the circumstances. To make the game even more interesting Montpellier selected the 3 ex USAP players, Geli, Tchale-Watchou, and Nico Mas.
The game starting badly for Montpellier with USAP scoring very quickly after a Paillaugue penalty, their try was scored after a neat chip by Allen; Hook gathered and offloaded to Mafi who went over, the try was converted by James Hook MHR 3 USAP 7. Penalties were exchanged by Paillaugue then Hook, but Montpellier were slowly taking hold of the game by the scruff of the neck, FTD got himself a neat drop goal, his 6th of the season, then another piece of FTD magic a superb missed pass to Anthony Floch who drew his man and gave a perfect pass to the unmarked Rene the taupe Ranger from that distance this guy does not miss, Paillaugue hit a great conversion from the touchline 13 to 10 to the hosts, again penalties were exchanged and the score moved on to 16-16. Another quick play in the USAP 22, the ball went through the hands of the three quarters and Alex Tulou was on the wing to dive over in the corner, again Paillaugue converted and Montpellier were on fire. Once again another piece of pure brilliance from FTD, a little grubber kick in the tightest of spaces and a beautiful collect from Rene Ranger and over he went for his second try of the day, again Paillaugue converted, and the score had moved onto 30-16, two magnificent tries in minutes, Montpellier were more than on form they were ripping the opposition apart, just before half time Paillaugue added anther penalty and at the break the score was Montpellier 33 Perpignan 16.
The second half started with the continual attack from the hosts and again Tulou from a ruck gathered the ball and broke free from the 22 crashed through tackles and got himself his second of the day, this was becoming a Kiwi affair 2 for Ranger and 2 for Tulou, once again Paillaugue added the extras.40-19. Perpignan were down and out, they had nothing left to give, domination absolute from Montpellier, Paillaugue added another penalty before being replaced by the young Eric Escande, who with the verve of a seasoned veteran, extracted the ball from a line out, threw an outrageous dummy then waltzed 46 mts around 6 of the opposition before going under the posts, pure brilliance from a player so young!!! He converted his masterpiece and that was that, 50 magnificent points to 19.for Montpellier. Whether FTD was in annoyance with the way he was discarded from the 6 Nations who knows, but he certainly hammered on the door of Philippe St. Andre with his performance today, it included everything a world class fly half can give, mind you he was not alone the whole team played as a unit and there were few mistakes, the occasional dropped pass or the silly penalties but this was an excellent team performance.
Montpellier is arriving at what is now known as the Money Time in France and they are showing the rest of the TOP 14 what it is all about, fast accurate rugby, with 7 games left to play this season, is this a first ever Top 4 or could one dream, a possible Top 2 and a home semi ??? Next week Montpellier are away to Clermont and their home record of 72 games undefeated, a 6 Nations weekend with France away in Wales, Fabien Galthie absent on 6 Nations commentary duty, as was he against Toulouse last week, (15-12 to Montpellier) that record of Clermont’s could just well becoming to an end, it will take a mammoth task as it is over 4 years since Clermont have lost at home, but as they say: “Records are made to be broken” watch this space!!!
Interview with Rene Ranger, Montpellier’s All Black three-quarter
Steve Whittell: Rene that was some performance by the team?
Rene Ranger: Yes The boys played really well they got up for this one that’s for sure, they stuck to their guns and the first half was very good, despite Perpignan getting off to a good start. The first half we played really well and got the lead we needed, and the second half was a bit more difficult as we had to defend for some
time but we held them out, an excellent result for us and 5 very good points.
Steve Whittell: It’s a good job young Eric Escande scored, if not it would have been an all Kiwi affair!!
Rene Ranger: With out a doubt it was brilliant that Alex and I got a couple each, but Eric’s try was the icing on the cake, he went from a long may out and beat I don’t know how many opponents, but yes he deserves everything he gets the boy works hard, he has a hell of a pace on him, good job well done.
Steve Whittell: With a bit of luck we could be in second place tonight!!
Rene Ranger: Yes lets hope so but we still have got to keep building and working hard, it’s a very difficult Championship and only hard work and dedication will get you the results, but playing like we did today is pure pleasure and I think will are really starting to work well as a unit, well let’s hope so, and the results are beginning to show.
Steve Whittell: With a result like that you have to enjoy the moment?
Rene Ranger: One very happy moment for all the boys, which is also excellent for morale, already looking forward to next week and Clermont, another massive game?
Steve Whittell: Cheers Rene go join the boys the supporters are waiting for you..
Resume & Interview by Steve Whittell.