Le 09 avril 2018

Just 2 home games left to play in this season’s Championship, La Rochelle and Pau, Montpellier still unbeaten at home in the TOP 14 and this Sunday at the very inconvenient time of 12.30 they take on La Rochelle, a team that has come on immensely over the past few seasons, they have also armed themselves with some excellent players, the likes of Botia, Vito, Eaton and many others, today will be a massive challenge for our boys as La Rochelle play a very fast attacking game which troubles most opponents.

The game started under the watchful eye of Mathieu Raynal who had the misfortune of breaking his leg a couple of seasons ago in the very same Altrad Stadium, but he is now back to full health.

At the start La Rochelle showed exactly what they are renowned for, fast flowing rugby and it was Montpellier who did all the defending but it was the visitors who were first on the scoreboard with a try from Jordaan which was converted by Lamb 0-7. This did not deter Montpellier they came back immediately, from the restart Jessie Mogg received the ball on his 22 and started a solo run which included sidesteps turns and about anything else you would find on the dance floor finishing an incredible try under the sticks he was the only one who touched the ball and La Rochelle defence could not get anywhere near him, Pienaar added the extras 7-7. Again La Rochelle came back with a Kerr-Barlow try after some sloppy defending from a line out, the Montpellier defence needed to get this close quarter defence correct or problems would occur throughout this game; Lamb added the extras and another 7pts. gap between the teams, 7-14.

The game flowed and was very pleasant to watch for the 11,000 plus supporters and they were certainly getting their monies worth, Montpellier attacked once again and Aaran Cruden placed a clever kick just behind the advancing defence, Mogg collected and gave the perfect pass to the big Fijian Nadalo who crashed over to advance his score to 16 tries this season 14-14. This game was flowing from one end to the other and it looked as by the end of the 80mins. There would be masses of pts. scored.

Montpellier were slowly applying the pressure and after some excellent work from the forwards who advanced down the park, the end result finished with a try from Capt. Louis Picamoles which was converted by Ruan Pienaar and for the first time in the game Montpellier had their noses in front 21-14. Just before half time Lamb added a penalty from close range and the teams went to the break 21-17.

The second half started in the very same vein with both teams throwing the ball about, but it looked as if some of the younger maritime players were beginning to tire and were having trouble getting back to the scrums and line outs, and it was not long before Montpellier increased their lead, the classic line out on the 5mts. line Bismark Du Plessis throws then gathers from the back of the following maul, and the rest is history, over the line goes the International hooker for his 7th try of the season, again Pienaar adds the extras 28-17. Minutes later exactly the same move, this time it’s Kelian Galletier at the back of the 5mts maul and he is propelled over the line by his team mates 35-17.

Once again Montpellier showed their class a chip by Pienaar for Mogg to run onto and unopposed he went over for Montpellier’s 6th try of the game and assures their attacking bonus pt. 40-17. Although all the pressure was coming from the home team La Rochelle did not stop trying and were rewarded with a Boudehent try in the 71st min. which was converted by James 40-24 and with only a one try advantage for the bonus pt. Montpellier would have to insure no further mistakes.

The last 5or 6 minutes were very hairy for the hosts as La Rochelle did their level best to try and take away the bonus point from Montpellier, they did score in the corner but after video it was disallowed the cause a very forward pass!! Eventually after some extras seconds the ref blew for full time and the bonus point secured the 10th of the season at home. This was by no means perfect but what is perfection in today’s game, yes there were line outs lost, some sloppy defending at times, and the scrum had its ups and downs but to gain another attacking bonus point against a team of the quality of La Rochelle needs some back slapping as not many have achieved that this season.

Jessie Mogg was Man of the Match a very easy call as he was just brilliant in everything he did, but he was not on his own, Bismark again gave his 100% as per usual, Fulgence is a machine that tackles for 80mins. non stop, Pienaar in total control at the base of the scrum and his kicking, field and conversions excellent. We could name many more but at the moment Montpellier are showing every weekend why they are No 1 and now 6pts clear from 2nd place Racing and another 10pts clear of Toulouse in 3rd place, we are getting closer to a direct semi place but there are still 3 games left, one game at a time as forecasts and pipe dreams are not allowed just yet, we all have to wait till everything is set in solid gold before thinking of anything but the next game.

Next week end Montpellier is off to Marseille where they are the visitors of Toulon who have moved the game from Mayol to the massive Orange Stadium of Marseille, another very tough challenge for our boys but I’m sure they will be well prepared by Vern Cotter and his staff..


Steve Whittell.