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The magnificent seven

Le 28 août 2017

The very first game of the new season under the new directions of Vern Cotter with his faithful staff of Nathan Hines and Alex King who have all been working together for the past few seasons. Newly promoted Agen was the opposition and the venue the Altrad Stadium, 18.00 Kick-off and a very unpleasant 30+° with a high humidity rate, but this is August and that’s what happens often in the later part of this month, a reasonable holiday crowd of 10 200 were present to see this start of the season game.

Everybody was talking about 5 pts. but banana skin events like this are very dangerous and the game must be won before thinking of those magic 5 points. Agen had nothing to loose and throwing caution to the wind could possibly upset the boys as this was also the very TOP 14 game they had played together, plenty of experience with several youngster who were going to get their first experiences of TOP 14 Rugby, these boys have to be blooded at some point and it is a well know fact of Coach Cotter to get these boys on the park and get them involved. The match was probably not the best ever to be played at the Altrad Stadium but for a first, it was encouraging to say the least. The Magnificent Seven tries by the hosts while Agen who battled all 80 minutes got over the try line 3 times, there was also a first for Aaron Cruden the All Black only just arrived in Montpellier but if you did not know that you would think he had been here for a couple of seasons, very similar to the arrival of François Steyn last season.

First half tries by Nemani Nadolo, Joe Tomane, and Benjamin Fall gave the boys a  flying  24-7 half time lead, Bosch getting a try for Agen, the first 40 enterprising to be fair with some excellent work from the pack in both line outs and the scrum, perfection is not a word used in rugby so of course there is plenty of work to do but there are already signs of good progress and with more hard work everything will improve.

Aaron Cruden looked very mature in everything he did and showed why he has a grand total of caps as an All Black, two passes which made tries for his team mates and his defence solid his clearance kicks were good, but this was his first outing and he also will improve. The second half was again all Montpellier tries from the youngsters, Martin Devergie, Romain Ruffenach, and Wiaan Liebenberg, who you could see was a very happy bunny getting back on the park after his 6 month layoff with injury last season, Agen got 2 tries back through Heriteau and Mchedlidze, but the only team on the park was Montpellier.

Final score Montpellier 48 - 19 Agen 

There were many pluses in the game but also plenty of errors, but with time and hard work they will be ironed out, Vern Cotter is hard but fair Task Master and he will have his troops playing better and better as the season goes on.

The youngsters select for this game did themselves absolutely no harm, Martin Devergie, Wiaan Liebenberg, Roman Ruffenach, all put in good performances while coming off the bench in the later part of the second half, Yvan Reilhac, Kevin Kornath, Mohamed Haouas, and Henry Immelman all played there part and have excellent futures in they continue to put in the hard yards.

Aaron Cruden is to be complimented on his first ever TOP 14 outing and he will be a great asset to the team as a prominent leader of the three quarters, Alex Dumoulin looked very hungry after his long layoff last season, along with Nemani Nadolo and Joe Tomane all playing a part and scoring tries,  François Steyn, well he was his usual professional self in all he did, the attacking three quarters will look awesome when everyone is present and fit for selection. Antoine Guillamon looked in good shape and did his part in the scrum yielding nothing to his opposite number and had a fair game in the loose, good to see, and compliments for him although he looked Christmas Crackered by the time he was replaced, the heat was making playing exceedingly tough for all.

The only disaster was the 20th min. injury to scrum hald Benoit Paillaugue who looks like he will be sitting out the first couple of month of the season with a complicated knee injury; he’s hoping a speedy recovery, he was replaced by Ruan Piennar, who looked at ease with his new club, another excellent asset. Next Saturday Oyonnax are the opposition another promoted Pro D2 team who came up with Agen, another challenge for the boys but with 5pts in the pocket and first day leaders of the TOP 14there is a pat on the back for all concerned, players, coaches and of course the ever faithful supporters who will grow in numbers with presentations similar to this one from the boys.

Montpellier are sitting leaders of the TOP 14 one point ahead of their rivals after the day 1, but there are 25 more games to play, but the start is very encouraging all the same.

 

Steve Whittell.