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A LESSON IN IRISH FIGHTING SPIRIT

Lundi 21 Octobre 2013
Second day of this seasons H Cup and the visitors were finalists of 2 years ago Ulster RFC, this was a first for both teams as they have never met before, so an interesting battle was on the cards, especially as Ulster are a quality team studded with several Irish Internationals, so it would be a stern test the hosts Montpellier. The day was probably more favourable to Ulster as it lacked the recent incredibly warm weather we have been having in the South of France, no doubt the Ulstermen looked out of their hotel windows early Sat morning with a smile on their faces this was nearly home from home. Everyone knew that the Ulster tactics would be the kick and chase with a Ruan Pienaar and Paddy Jackson playing on top of their game, so Montpellier would be required to do an awful amount of high ball catching.
 
The forecast became reality and the ball had ice on it for most of the match as it was probably in the air more than in the hands of both teams but it was a tactic that served Ulster well and Montpellier could not hang on to the se constant Gary Owens. Montpellier started well with a Jonathon Pelissie penalty but that small lead did not last very long, the ball was thrown out to the wing and a quick interchange of passes between Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe saw the former race into the hallowed ground for the first try of the game the extras were added by Paddy Jackson. 3-10 to the Ulstermen. Luckily for Montpellier Ruan Pienaar was having a bad day at the office with his penalty kicking and missed 3 in the first half  which would have placed Montpellier in a very delicate position if they had all been converted. The half time score Montpellier 3 Ulster RFC 7. Words were said at half time by coach Galthie and Montpellier looked as though they could get back into the game, but they went further behind from a Pienaar penalty, 3 -10 to the visitors.
 
Montpellier did get on the score board with a try from Yoan Audrin after good work from Francois Trinh-Duc, the extras were missed from the corner by Pelissie but Montpellier were back in the game and only 2 points behind. Montpellier continued forward domination but could not breach the Ulster defence, some good tackling by the Irish or more often than not error after error from the Montpellier attack, with some bad choices to fill the bucket of a day which needs to be remembered even if it’s not for all the right reasons!!! Ulster in the meantime continued with high ball, high ball, high ball, why change tactics when they were working so well and Montpellier helping with some awful non catching. Plus one or 10 more mistakes and infringements which gave Ruan Pienaar the chance to brush aside his first half misses, he added another 5 penalties and Paddy Jackson put the final nail in the coffin in the last minute with a penalty of his own.  Final score Montpellier 8 Ulster RFC 25. 
 
Excellent initiative from Capt. Fulgence Ouedraogo who led the applause for the Ulster players in a guard of honour as the Ulstermen left the field of play, a sporting gesture rarely seen in France. Montpellier can only rue their performance, far too many basic errors and often players isolated in the tackle, remembering this is a 15 man game and individual performances help but the team must work as a unit or the worse will happen. The other bone of contention was the performance of Leighton Hodges the Welsh referee, who clearly had a one sided view of all the 50/50 decisions, and practically all went the way of the Ulstermen, the usual jargon is “We must adapt to the British style of refereeing” but as we all play under the same rules it would be an idea if they were to adapt to the way French rugby is played, especially when in France. The players are often cited for foul play it is time we had a panel of judges to evaluate the performances of the referees if they are cited for unfair or biased performances they could find themselves in  lower divisions the following weeks until their performances improve, excellent idea, but that is just another fairy tale dream on!!! Asterix and Obelix both had their problems with her Gracious Majesty and the 100 Year War is obviously not over yet, if the standard of British refereeing carries on in the same vein, the war will continue for the next 100years.
 
Steve Whittell.