Le 31 décembre 2018

The 13th day and half way stage of this season’s TOP 14 Championship had Pau as the visiting team, they are also desperately looking for points, their position is 12th and below that is the red zone of relegation. Montpellier not having the best of times needed a good win to regain confidence to move them forwards nearer to that Top 6 group. The weather was brilliant for this time of year, bright sunshine and little wind all the ingredients for fast running rugby, a very good crowd had turned out over this festive period to support their teams.  Montpellier had a couple of bonuses, Benoit Paillaugue and Nemsie Nadolo both playing their first home game starts for many months and everyone happy to see them fit again.

The Game started and Montpellier could not get their hands on the ball, it was all Pau who crash tested the Montpellier try line, the home sides defence held strong with some mighty tackling, but they did give away a penalty to get a first slender lead, but Benoit Paillaugue was also on form and hit a couple himself, the score move onto 6-3 for Montpellier. As the game progressed Levan Chilichava got himself a broken nose and had to leave the park replaced by Antoine Guillamon. A few minutes later Misha Narishvili got himself a yellow card, somehow slipping onto an opponents back with his knee, as he entered the ruck, the player was on the wrong side of the ruck and Misha seemed to loose his footing, the ref thought otherwise and Misha had ten in the bin. After 25 minuts of moreorless defending and having little ball they started to get themselves into the game. Every time Nadolo had the ball there were at least 3 defenders on his case, but in the end it was Jimmy Nagusa who showed some brilliance, he collected a clearance kick around the half way line then danced, jigged around most of the advancing Pau defenders, he escaped 4 tackles with spins and pure strength, finishing under the sticks for a wonderful try, Benoit Paillaugue added the extras 13-6 for the hosts. Before the break Slade added another penalty for Pau and when the ref blew for the break the score was 13-6, but Montpellier were slowly taking command of the game.

The second half was so so different, the aggression was back for Montpellier maybe half time words from coach Vern Cotter but it was there for all to see. Once again it was Jimmy Nagusa who broke loose handed the perfect ball to Nadolo and from 20 meters out no one was going to stop him and over he went in the corner, and the Paille added the extras 20-6 and now light between the two teams. Next it was Paul Willemse pure force with of course skill going over for the 3rd and bonus point try, which again Benoit Paillaugue added the extras  27-6, next in line Jaques Du Plessis who again went over with his extreme force, Benoit added the extras and Montpellier were well clear, the score 34-7. Laurent Bouchet did get the first try for Pau which was converted by Colin Slade, but the bonus point was still there for Montpellier 34-13. The final nail in the coffin for Pau was a great attack from Montpellier Mikautadze fell just short after a good run, and again Jaques Du Plessis was quick on the ball and dived over, Frans Steyn added the extras and that was that. Final Score Montpellier 41 Pau 13

This was Montpellier at their strongest, apart from the first 20minuts where they suffered from early Pau attacks they soon became masters and took control of the game, but they played as a team and not 15 individuals which made all the difference. Many were to be congratulated, Yvan Watramez for his 150th appearance for the club, but on the park Frans Steyn, Jacques Du Plessis and the young Arthur Vincent all played out of their skins, but globally it was a team effort from all 23 players named on that sheet, who fought and battled for their club to move them up the table to 8th position. Next Saturday Montpellier are at home again this time the opposition is Lyon KO 16.30 another very tough game but if the team continues in this vein we can take a minimum of 4points. A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL ! Hoping that 2019 brings joy, good health and passion to all and just maybe, a first BOUCLIER DE BRENNUS for Montpellier.

Steve Whittell.