Le 01 octobre 2018

Sunday afternoon’s game against Toulon in the GGL Stadium was a right Royal affair, the guest of honour was former Olympic swimmer, Her Royal Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco who gracefully got the game started with the fictive kick off, a splendid occasion for the President Mohed Altrad and the club to have the honour and privilege of the presence of such a Royal guest.

The game was always going to be a very tough affair, Toulon have a multitude of world famous names from both North and Southern Hemispheres and this was always on the books to be hard fought physical battle. Montpellier has their own stars and Vern Cotter had selected a team capable of winning this match, a late injury to Nadolo gave Jimmy Nagusa the chance to shine on the wing. The game got underway and the tackles were hard, and both teams defended well this looked more like a Euro Champions game than the hard slog of the TOP 14, there was little kicking down the park and the possession and attack kept everyone glued to their seats. The first shock of the game was after Montpellier scored their first try, Johan Goosen dived over but landed badly turning over his ankle, the stretcher was called for and he was carried off direction the hospital to pass tests to see the extent of his injury, and to make matters even worse the try was disallowed after video for a forward pass, but the penalty that followed gave Montpellier and Pienaar their first 3 pts. Alex Dumoulin came of the bench  to play 10, yes he was formed their in his very younger days but had not been in that role for many a long year, but Alex always gives his best and hopefully in a very tough situation he would lead from the front as all good fly half’s do. The first try went to Montpellier; Capt. Louis Picamoles jackled a ball from the tackle, Pienaar sent an enormous missed pass to Benjy Fall who did the rest from 30mts out, Pienaar added the extras and Montpellier were 10-0 to the good. This game was being played at break neck speed with some massive hits on the way, and Toulon replied immediately with a try by winger Ikpefan who broke 3 tackles to go over into the hallowed ground, Trinh-Duc added the extras 10-7. The battle continued with both teams running at each other great passing, massive tackles, and open play that went on for minutes rather than seconds. Just before half time, penalty for Montpellier, Jimmy Nagusa snatched the ball took the tap penalty and somehow twisted and turned his body to get the ball over the try line when most of him was in mid air over the touch in goal line, these Fijians might be big, strong, but they certainly are very flexible as not many would be able to do what Jimmy just performed, the extras were missed and Montpellier went to the break 15-7. Escande got himself a yellow for accosting Jimmy as he did not retreat as the penalty was taken, so Toulon would start the second half down to 14 players, another Jimmy acceleration saw him go down injured and that was it for the flying Fijian has he limped off added by the staff.

The second half got underway  and it was much more of the same, good possession massive hits and some fine ball in hand play, the rucks at times were on the edge of vicious as contention for the ball was vibrating to the maximum. The supporters did not have to wait long for Montpellier’s 2nd  try, a charge down by Benjy Fall, from a Belleau, clearance dropped into the arms of Jan Serfontein and off he went under the sticks, maybe a little lucky but they all count, the extras added by Pienaar  22-7 and the break was made.  Trinh-Duc added a penalty for Toulon to progress the score to 22-10 but Montpellier kept defending well and although there were some close calls, the Montpellier defence looked very solid. Louis Picamoles added a 4th try and the bonus point, after a magnificent maul which bundled him over the line; Pienaar added the extras and Montpellier looked confident with the score moving on to 29-10. Toulon did get a late try robbing the hosts of their bonus point, through Meric after some good handling, and at the very end a vicious shoulder charge on the young Yvan Reilhac got Liam Messam a deserved red card, but this game was all about victory and we could almost say Royal Victory, with a very pleased Princess Charlene looking on.

Montpellier have to be congratulated on this performance, their best game of the season so far, Louis Picamoles was everywhere leading his troops from the front Kelian Galletier had 26 tackles to his name, a real work horse, and despite the injuries of Goosen and Nagusa, the tem organised itself well, Alex Dumoulin just back from injury and having to take the 10 spot was absolutely magnificent under the circumstances and deserve bucketfuls of credits. The scrums solid, the lineouts excellent with Fulgence Ouedraogo, and NicoVan Rensburg playing a major role, the whole team must take credit for a team performance, slowly slowly Montpellier are beginning to look something similar to last season which should please everyone concerned.

Next week the Champions Cup starts with the visit of Edinburgh, Sat. October 13th KO. 16.15, another tough game, as their coach Richard Cockrill knows all about tough opposition and will have done his homework, this will be another huge task for the boys but playing as they did today confidence will be high.

Steve Whittell.