Pau given a lesson in game management
After two rounds of European Champions Cup pool games, which were both lost to Leinster and Exeter, Montpellier were back on TOP 14 duty with a very tricky visit to Pau, who are a recent promotion team, Solid in all departments of the game and very difficult to beat on their own ground.
The infirmary chocka with injuries, Vern Cotter had some difficult choices for this weekends team sheet, and a last minute injury to Alexandre Dumoulin did not help his choice... The result was Benoît Paillaugue again at 10 and Enzo Sanga starting at 9 with Francois Steyn sliding back into his normal centre post. Newly arrived Jan Serfontein did not feature in this first game with his new club, his time will come fairly soon. The game got off to an excellent start by the boys who showed the Pau masses that they came here for a result, and not just be the opposition. They attacked the Pau line from the very off and coming close on several occasions. The first score of the game was a Nemsie Nadolo try, charging down his wing and knocking off defenders as though he was playing 10 pin bowling, this guy is nearly unstoppable when on form. Benoit Paillaugue missed the extras but 0-5 to the boys. The Little Big Man was relishing his second outing at 10 and used the possession with speed and class, serving his backs with good ball, alternating passes between the outside backs and the interior pass to his back row, who led by Captain Louis Picamoles, showed they meant business. He also defended like a lion and missed very little in the way of tackles.
Montpellier continued their assault on the Pau try line. Firstly a penalty by Paillaugue, then they continued trying everything in the book to get over into the hallowed ground. They finally did with Joe Tomane chipping ahead for Nadolo who collected shrugged off a couple of defenders before getting his arms free to give Joe Tomane the perfect pass for an easy try. The Little Big Man added the extras. All Pau could manage was a Tom Taylor penalty to try and keep them in the game. 3-15 to the boys from Montpellier, then the referee decided to end the first 40 minutes. Montpellier lost Julien Bardy in the first half to injury, replaced by Kelian Galletier.
The second half started and the Montpellier gave away a penalty which Tom Taylor obliged giving Pau an extra 3pts. 15-6. Montpellier continued to dominate and were rewarded with a 5 meters line out. The ball was won, a magic ball room type turn by Wiaan Liebenberg who fed Louis Picamoles and his sheer speed and weight took him over the line. A well deserved try for the Captain who looked a lot sharper than in previous games. Was the visiting All Blacks at the back of his mind? The Extras were added once again by The Little Big Man.6-22. Pau did have their moments although far and few in between, but after some good forward work, Votu escaped and some sloppy defending let him in next to the uprights. Taylor converted and the gap had narrowed to 13-22 with 20 minutes left on the clock. The last 10 minutes saw Pau pounding the Montpellier try line and coming very close to scoring but the defence heroic at times, kept the home side at bay. They could only manage a penalty to get them to within 6 points, which did not even give them the defending bonus point. Final score Pau 16 Montpellier 22
Another excellent away win for the boys, hard fought with a second half well managed by the team. Although Enzo Sanga has had hardly any Top 14 experience, he controlled the game well from the no.9 post and used his boot intelligently when there was pressure on the team. The defence was good with very few missed tackles, the pack stole good line out ball and the scrum held solid, with Antoine Guillamon staking his claim for an International cap v the All blacks in a couple of weeks time. The Man of the Match had to be given to The Little Big Man Benoit Paillaugue. The last two games he has stood in at the 10 spot, given everything that he possibly could, in attack and defence which showed late on in the second half with a forehead heavily bandaged, but this man of small stature and the heart of a lion does not have a reverse gear. It was he who continually helped Enzo Sanga with words and encouragement throughout the game guiding him into controlling everything based around the scrum.
Next Sunday the visit of Clermont to the Altrad Stadium always a very tough game and never easy game, although in today’s TOP 14 the word easy does not exist.
Congratulaions to the coaching staff who with the infirmary bursting at the seams still managed to calculate a winning selection against a team difficult to manoeuvre at home, and with the possibility of even more in the infirmary with Benjamin Fall, Davit Kubriashvili and Julien Bardy all leaving the park with injuries the headache is continuing and Clermont only 7 days away, maybe its time to start lighting candles and a mid week trip to Lourdes!