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MONTPELLIER MANIPULATED IN THE MUD

Lundi 06 Janvier 2014
Brive in the Correze on a Saturday night in January, there are probably better places to be, cold, wet, and hostile, many have come here and many have left with nothing other than frustration, and a feeling of we could have done better if we had tried harder. Brive always looking for points at home as their position is still delicate, were the hosts to Montpellier who are trying to find success on the road, this season away wins are few and far between, and playing against the Brivistes who are by no means a team of stars, but they are a proud bunch who take nothing lying down and fight for one another often nearly to the death.
 
The conditions were not great for this game, a very heavy pitch and the rain had been consistent for all of the day, but did stop minutes before the KO. and a good home crowd of 9,500 were there to rally behind their troops. This was going to be a game of “Eras gone by” the Battle of the Big Boys upfront, with the boot playing a major role, a difficult night for anyone with the no.15 on their back. The game itself was exactly that, scrums, line outs, scrums, line outs and more scrums and more line outs, and of course plenty of boot to boot. A disastrous night for any ref as the scrums collapsed, one after the other, and the line outs are decimated by mistakes galore, but he did cope well enough in very bad conditions, the players however especially the forwards found it very difficult to keep their footing and their hands on the ball, but in similar conditions the result would be he same for most teams.
A try less game where domination was from the home forwards, who pushed Montpellier with relative ease around the park and everything was bossed by Brive upfront, courageous and aggressive, the Brive pack earned their colours. Time and time again, Montpellier’s scrum ball was messy and they had great difficulty in getting anything clean for the backs to try and advance onto their counterparts, and on the rare occasions they did, dropped passes or errors in judgement were their downfall. The points for Brive all came from the boot of their fullback Germain 15 in all, while Benoit Paillaugue kicked 2 but missed a couple, a rarity from him as he is Mr 90% in his kicking ability, he was replace by Eric Escande in the 62nd minute and he also could not find the target neither, missing a couple of penalty kicks.
 
Late on in the second half Montpellier did try and throw the ball about but it was never going to happen, they did get a penalty on the stroke of 80 mins, Francois Trihn-Duc took the responsibility as Captain and knocked the ball over the sticks, which at least secured the bonus point, a very small gift when the intentions pre match were victory and a minimum of 4 points. Montpellier are still hovering on a qualifying place but only just, there still seems to be a lack of urgency and a total lack of aggressivity in the play of Montpellier especially upfront, we are being pushed about far too often by teams we should be bossing, the new signing are still not gelling and questions will have to be asked in the not too distant future. The next two weeks brings back the H Cup with a visit to Ulster on Friday then the Italians of Trevisse are at Montpellier for the final pool game the following Saturday, Montpellier’s 
H Cup ends there as there will be no qualification for the ¼’s this season. This however will give the coaches a couple of weeks to maybe rest some players give others with little game time a run out, but more importantly have the time to work out a formula to get this bunch of class players into a working unit, both upfront and behind and get back on the bandwagon into winning ways, with Toulouse and Clermont away from home on the horizon there is plenty of work to be done to eradicate the mistakes that are continually appearing  
Christmas and New Year celebrations could become very quickly just a distant memory for the players of Montpellier!!!
 
Steve Whittell.