Montpellier makes hard work of bonus point win
Montpellier have now played 8 home games and taken maximum points in 7 of them, the only team to survive the 5 points win was Clermont. No mean feat by our boys, the latest victim was Stade Francais, yet when you look at the team that was announced it certainly did not have the air of a team lying in 11th place in this seasons TOP 14. Truffled with Internationals past and present, they certainly looked very smart on paper and had absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain in Montpellier on Saturday evening.
A poor attendance of 10,000 for a Saturday evening game, with a cold wind blowing down the pitch, but it was dry so handling would be not too difficult. The game started with Stade Français applying all the pressure and they were the first to score, after good work from the front five. Ex Montpellier winger Marvin O’Connor went over in the corner, you could see his personal joy thumping the deck with pleasure, always good to get one over on your old team mates, the extras were added by Plisson, 0-7.
It was not long before Montpellier replied with a try of their own, Cruden managed to nip in between 2 defenders after the Montpellier forwards had progressed to within 5mts. of the Stade try line, Benoît Paillaugue converted 7-7. Both teams were making hard work of the good conditions and there were plenty of mistakes from all the players on the park, one of those stop start games where not much gets finished so plenty of scrums after the mistakes.
Jules Plisson added another 2 penalties to move the score onto 7-13 for Stade, just on the stroke of half time the Montpellier forwards again took the ball up the park and it was finally captain Louis Picamoles who finished over the line, Benoît Paillaugue again added the extras 14-13, Montpellier had their noses in front for the first time in the game, when the Ref blew for half time.
After being the crowd was entertained by 2 teams of youngsters playing Bubble footie /rugby which they definitely enjoyed, the ref brought the teams out for the second half. Capt. Louis Picamoles receptioned every player as he entered onto the part giving each one a word of encouragement, this team is slowly bonding into something solid which emits lots of pride and passion. Montpellier did perform better in the second half and they grinded they opposition slowly into submission, a first try for Momo Haouas, after some confusion near the Stade line the ball bounced of legs and Momo was there to collect and go over for his very first try in this young mans career, once again Benoît Paillaugue added the extras and Montpellier were 21-13 to the good.
Jules Plisson added another penalty for Stade just before Montpellier had a scrum 20mts out Paillaugue went on the blind side and served Nemani Nadolo, with one defender to beat he did his usual steam roller effect and the poor defender bounced of him, and he ended behind the try line with a magnificent dive to get to within one try of leading try scorer Chris Ashton of Toulon, once again Benoit added the extras and the score 28-16, this being the 4th try and that all important bonus point, now all Montpellier had to do was hang on or score again to keep it.
In the 73rd min. Benoit Paillaugue took a massive knock to his ankle and was stretchered off and straight to hospital for more check ups he was replaced by the young Guigue for his first start, we have now 3 scrum halves in the infirmary. This could be a massive problem for coach Vern Cotter as neither Pienaar or Sanga are near match fit. Although they did not score again, and neither did Stade so Montpellier completed a 7 out of 8 home bonus point wins which totals 39 out of 40 possible points. Not bad to start the New Year off.
This was not Montpellier’s best but playing mediocre and still winning with the bonus point suggests that the day everything clicks and drops into place I personally would not want to be the opposition!
It was good to see Louis Picamoles and Aaron Cruden stepping up to the mark and Julien Bardy had an excellent game. Charles Geli was awarded a personalised shirt after his 100th game for the club a great honour for a very hot Catalan. Montpellier are moving towards something good and if they can find something near perfection by the time the play offs come around this could be a very exciting end of season for them.
Next matches are Euro Champions Cup, next Sat the boys are at Exeter, where Montpellier leaders of the TOP 14 play Exeter leaders of the Premiership, a battle which could be something to be seen as it’s already a ticket sell out, and the following week at home to the Dublin based team Leinster.