Montpellier deny Toulon the bonus point.

Le 16 avril 2018

Toulon probably had their best selection of players for this massive game at the Orange Velodrome Stadium in Marseille v Montpellier, while Vern Cotter changed practically the whole team from the previous game last weekend, ultra important to make sure some of his key players were rested before the start of the Championship play-offs which will be on us in just over a month time. After several days of heavy rain, Saturday was warm with little wind and ideal for rugby a large crowd of 38,483 were present for this clash of leaders Montpellier and Toulon who really needed maximum points to gain a home barrage.

The start of the game it was all Toulon who dominated and the score board showed the difference with 2 early tries in the first 10mins. by Ashton, breaking the TOP 14 record held by Nalaga pushing his total to 22 for this season and the second by Radradra, both could have been stopped if the defence was a little tighter, another followed mins. later with a chip kick from Belleau in the Montpellier 22 which was collected by Capt Bastareaud and he went over unopposed, again there was nobody covering the secondary defence line, making life very easy for the Toulon attack. Belleau added another penalty in the 29 min and Montpellier were looking uneasy at 22-0.

Just before half time after a ball won from a line out, Alex Dumoulin collected a pass from Cruden he made good ground and slipped the perfect pass to Vincent Martin who went over near the posts, the extras were added by Cruden and Montpellier were on the scoreboard 22-7. Probably the biggest mistake of the game for Montpellier was after the siren had gone for half time, on the stroke of half time, Montpellier had a scrum which they won but decided to use the ball instead of kicking out of play, the result was a lost ball and 7 more points for Toulon with a try scored by Isa, Belleau added the extras and at the pause Montpellier were down 29-7, a silly mistake that could well have been avoided.

The second half saw changes for Montpellier with Louis Picamoles, Paul Williemse, and Ruan Pienaar all coming on early in the second half, this shored up a retreating scrum for the visitors and gave more chances to Montpellier to have better ball and attack the  Toulon defence. Montpellier were rewarded with another 2 tries, first Gaby Ngandebe who squeezed in on the corner flag with an excellent effort, then Capt for the day Kelian Galletier going over after excellent work from the forwards, especially a storming run from Yvan Watremez who was held up just short. This advanced the score to 32-17which was the final score of the game the only score Toulon could master was a second half penalty, which really should have been a penalty kick for touch as they had lost the attacking bonus point with the try by Ngandebe. Another Toulon decision which did not go unnoticed from Coach Fabien Galtie’s facial expressions, there seams to be some discontentment between staff and players, which was obvious after the post match interview of their Capt. Bastareaud.

Although Montpellier came away with no points from this encounter they stopped that all important bonus point which could be very important before the play-offs start, and they are still 6pts clear at the top, there are 2 games to play on Sunday so Montpellier will have to have a little patience before the final outcome of the total of this weekends results. The turn around of several key players rested for this game was a 50/50 result but it did show that  besides the ultimate first choice team, there are players who are putting their hands up to be counted, to provide the quality that Montpellier have been showing all season. The team is a little short in some areas due to injuries, and a performance like this away from home against a very good Toulon XV shows the depth of this squad and their commitment towards their coach Vern Cotter and his staff. There is still a long way to go but Montpellier is well and truly in the mix with their own destination in their control. Next game v Pau in 2 weeks time a game which must be won, first the all important victory and then the search of that bonus point, which should propel Montpellier into a direct semi final place, and after that just 2 games, 160 mins; and who knows, the end reward is a Bouclier but the next important venture is the Section Paloise and nothing beyond that.


Steve Whittell