• Equipe pro

Montpellier so close to a magic victory

Le 02 mai 2017

A win for Montpellier v La Rochelle would give the team the chance to have a direct place into the semis, anything less and it would be more than likely a home play-off, La Rochelle were nearly there for their first ever direct semi play-off, so there was everything to play for in this match of 1st v 2nd before this weekends games got under way.

The weather at La Rochelle was miserable very windy, and maritime rain, making handling a bit of a lottery, but it was the same for both teams, and with Mon. Poite the man in the middle both teams were expecting a tough but fair game. As per usual at La Rochelle, it was once again a full house with no tickets left for anyone trying to get in at the last minute.

Francois Steyn and Joffrey Michel were pulled out of the team at the last minute with injuries they were replaced by Henri Immelman and Jimmy Nagusa.

The match started with La Rochelle showing why they at the head of the Top 14, they dominated the scrums, the line outs and were very aggressive in all their play showing they were not here to lose in front of their capacity full house, and Montpellier spent long moments defending.

The score went to Montpellier although they were under the cosh from the start, Joe Tomane slipped the ball to Willie du Plessis who found the gap to squeeze over into the hallowed ground, he added the extras to his own try 0-7, Brock James got the home team on the score board with a penalty which was countered mins. later by Willie du Plessis, the first try for la Rochelle came from a rolling maul which Montpellier could not stop after immense pressure on the visitors try line, James converted from the touch line, the score 10 apiece.

Both teams were throwing every thing they had into the rucks and mauls and although ferocious at times, both teams respected each other and Mon. Poite controlled everything with an excellent attitude. Both kickers added penalties before half time, 2 for James and 1 for Willie du Plessis, half time score 16-13.

The second half La Rochelle came out all guns blazing,  first Vito then Aguillon both transformed by James plus another penalty from James, and La Rochelle had got themselves a big 17 point lead 33-16, Willie du Plessis did manage another three points for Montpellier.

Once again Montpellier were defending for their lives as La Rochelle used both backs and their massive pack to dominate, they  were always on the move forward and looked very dangerous.

Another massive scrum and Vito came up with his second try converted by James and La Rochelle was on 40pts. Montpellier was suffering from the onslaught.

15 mins. left and the task for Montpellier for even the defending bonus point seemed like a huge proposition, but this is sport and the last 15mins silenced the full house of “les Rochellais”.

First a penalty try from Montpellier after showing their strength with an excellent rolling maul, James got himself a yellow for bring the maul down close to the try line, 40-23, then Benoit Paillaugue got the ball after sterling work from Capt Fulgence Ouedraogo in the loose, he looked up and punted the ball down the park near the touch line and Nemsie Nadolo came charging down his wing, he picked the ball off the deck with one hand which is no mean feat from a  man of his posture and over the line he went, Willie added the extras 40-30.

Next was the turn of Demetri Catrakilis who hoofed a Gary Owen, which was badly receptioned by La Rochelle and a hack on by Paillaugue saw Duhan Van der Mere outchase all and dive on the pig skin for his first senior try for the club again Willie converted 40-37.

Exactly 2 mins to go and Montpellier gathered from the kick off and start to move forward, the siren goes for the end of the match but a last ditch kick forward for Nadolo to hack on and dive over for the winning try, did he ground the ball?? Mon Poite went to the video ref and after a good 5 mins consultation he decided no try, difficult decision and La Rochelle win the game 40-37, a game they nearly lost after the last 15 mins of Montpellier mayhem and rampage which downed the home team onto their knees, so close but it was not to be for Montpellier, but a very well deserved defending bonus point.

A great effort by Montpellier no one has won in this seasons TOP 14 at La Rochelle, and Montpellier came so very close.

Next Sat. the last game of the season v Stade Francais, still Montpellier can qualify for a direct semi if things go wrong at Clermont v La Rochelle, they are already assured of a home barrage place and the likely candidates are Racing but that is far from certain as it could be any of 4/5 teams. If it is Racing then again it should be very interesting for Montpellier another 54pts drubbing for the French Champions, they will not want a repeat of the last game they played at Montpellier and this time it will be in front of a full house who will want to see Racing put to the sword again.

 

Steve Whittell.