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MONTPELLIER A SHADOW OF THEMSELVES

Mardi 03 Décembre 2013
The TOP 14 was back in action for the second time after the Autumn Internationals and everyone was hoping that Montpellier would avenge their home defeat last week against Castres and that they  provide a better performance against Racing Metro than the French National team over the last month, who were to say at the least very mediocre. The first away match back and Montpellier were in Paris against Racing Metro, who are also having a topsy turvy season, they had recruited well but at the moment are still trying to find their best selection and the machine is not fully oiled and moving purposely forward. Montpellier has all their new signing bar Sitaleki Timani who should be arriving hopefully this week sometime. Robert Ebersohm the new South African signing starts for the first time this Sat. for Montpellier, alongside his fellow countryman Wynand Olivier, and with Rene Ranger and Anthony Tuitavake the other three-quarters, Montpellier had a very International look to their back line. Bar the injured, ( Figallo and Ouedraogo) the forwards were all back and ready to participate. Racing Metro are a difficult side to manoeuvre but last season’s away victory (12-16) would give Montpellier plenty of confidence, as they themselves are not performing wonders at the moment. It is a rare occasion that a team has so much possession and play most of the game in the Racing half, and only come away with one point. There is something that is not quite clicking with Montpellier at the moment, so good at the start of the season, the wheels seem to have come off the wagon or are very loose and need tightening, often masters at line outs they were nearly non-existent loosing a massive 7 line outs to the opposition and on many occasions close to the Racing try line with excellent chances of scoring. The combativity was there for all to see, but it still lacks the finished product and loosing all that line out ball just does not help the situation, so many times Montpellier got themselves into try scoring positions but some very naïve thinking ruined their chances.
There was never more than 6 points between the two sides throughout the whole match and Montpellier were bossing the opposition for most of the first half but without any great advantage. Machenaud had one penalty to a couple by Pelissie and another drop goal by Francois Trinh-Duc the fourth of his season, already a record, and both teams went to the break:  Racing 3 Montpellier 9.
 
The second half brought firstly, another penalty from Machenaud then an opportunists try from fall, who nudged the ball ahead down the wing and dived over, only for the former to miss the transformation Racing 11 Montpellier 12, and still 20mins. to play. Imhoff had a good run down the wing only to be court a couple of metres short by Berard, but Montpellier infringed once again and the Racing scrum half gave his team another 3 points and the lead, 14-12, again in the final minutes Montpellier were caught offside and were punished another 3 points, this being the final score of the game and when  the siren went Trinh-Duc who was team captain decided enough was enough, and kicked the ball high into the stands to at lest secure the bonus defensive point while Racing pocketed the other 4 points. The commitment was there, the execution needs to be worked on and the line outs, well  back to the drawing board as this was the most dismal part of Montpellier’s game today, you cannot loose 7 line outs and the possession that goes with it, and come away victorious. This season is particularly difficult for all participants, the results show it, but more effort with more aggressivity and passion has to be produced if Montpellier wants a ¼ final home playoff place, something that still has not happened so far in their existence, we are now at the half way stage of the season, last season Montpellier finished 5th with 73pts, we have 34 pts and are 6th so there is much to do if Montpellier are going to produce the desires and wishes of President Mohed Altrad, already qualifying will not be easy, a minimum 4th place a tremendous task but not impossible.
 
Next week we are back on the H Cup trail with away, then home matches against English Premiership Champions Leicester a very stern test indeed, from the following next 2 games Montpellier may well be able to gage if they are up there amongst the best, because Leicester certainly have been, and still are one of the best teams in Europe., their trophy cabinet just stinks of silverware. Hard work, and more hard work will be Montpellier’s orders for the next few days.
 
Steve Whittell.