Montpellier's discipline needs attention
Montpellier had the difficult task of a top of the table Top 14 clash with La Rochelle this weekend, Montpellier riding high in top spot and La Rochelle just 2 tiny points behind them. La Rochelle is never an easy away fixture, always a full and very supportive full house plus they have not lost at home for umpteen matches. So all in all a mountain to climb for the Montpellier boys. A very cold, but dry and sunny day in the maritime town and lucky not to have any snow as many areas of France were covered by thick blankets of the white stuff. The 14.45 was also an advantage of not playing in minus temperatures as winter has finally hit France big style. The game started with Montpellier attacking the Maritimes try line, but they could not get across it, the defence was strong and efficient, but the boys threw the ball about and opportunities did arise but nothing could be made of them. Penalties were exchanged by Paillaugue and Bales as the score moved to 6-3. The game being played at a whirl wind pace with some massive hits, all in all the first 20 minutes the two teams tested each and Montpellier were disadvantaged by their poor discipline and some sloppy play. They gave shed loads of penalties in the first half which lost them both position and a lack of ball which never helps in any situation.
The first try came from a bad pass by Montpellier as they attacked the oppositions try line. Jordaan stole the ball and hoofed it down field, Rattez followed and hacked on twice before grounding the ball over the Montpellier try line with most of the team a good 70 meters away, the extras were added by Bales and the break had been assumed by La Rochelle : 13-3. Montpellier were playing reasonable rugby and a vast improvement from last weeks disaster in Paris versus Racing, but the mistakes and indiscipline was still there. Something that Vern Cotter will have to undertake this week before the oncoming two European outings versus Glasgow. Just before half time, again penalties were exchanged. La Rochelle had a try disallowed after Vito had fumbled the ball forward. 16-6.
A moment of inexperience and madness on the stroke of half time from Momo Houas when he tried to behead Bales the awaiting scrum half in a maul, who still had not got his hands on the ball. The ref produced a yellow immediately no questions asked, it could have nearly been red, shame as up to then the youngster had played a mega part in the scrums and mauls for his first outing and a first starting cap for his club. The ref blew for the break 16-6 to La Rochelle. The second half started much as the first with La Rochelle dominant in most quarters with Montpellier being starved of the ball. When they had it they progressed into the opposition 22mts but could not finish the job. They also had many moments of last ditch defending and kept La Rochelle off their try line but at times it was only just and the home side came very close on several occasions. It was La Rochelle who scored first with another Bales penalty 19-6, after a rare Montpellier penalty which was kicked into touch, Montpellier organised a line out and maul which Rochelle’s pack could not stop and Montpellier scored their first try by Ruffenach in the corner, Benoit Paillaugue missed the conversion 19-11. With just 10 minutes to go, Paillaugue slotted a penalty in front of the sticks to grasp maybe, that all important defensive bonus point 19-14, now all they had to do was score or keep La Rochelle from scoring. Not an easy task as they started to pound the Montpellier try line and came up short more than once, but after a 5mt scrum, the ball flew to Brock James who double sidestepped 4 opponents to go over and kill all chances of a point for Montpellier. Bales took his time, the siren sounded and he took his conversion kick, extras added and the final result : La Rochelle 26 Montpellier 14.
This was a better performance by Montpellier than last weekend, but once again discipline and some very silly errors let them down. They got close, but not close enough. La Rochelle is a fortress and Montpellier did have their chances but they missed the last bus home. Next two weeks : European Champions Cup rugby, away then home to Glasgow Warriors, before the Christmas clash with Lyon, a team who are amassing plenty of points this season and will not be coming to Montpellier on the 23rd Dec. KO. 18.00, looking for Christmas turkey Christmas pudding and trimmings. They will be looking to upset the contenders for the Bouclier de Brennus. The best Christmas present Montpellier could have would be 4 or 5 pts and regain that No. 1 spot on top of the TOP 14.