Power, pride and passion !
Euro Champions Cup again this weekend and the return game v Toulon, the fourth of this season’s pool games. The weather, HORRIBLE, teaming rain since the early hours of the morning and no way was it going to stop, fast running rugby was certainly out of the question just holding onto the ball will be a feat on its own. Both teams are not having the best of seasons with both on 6pts apiece in the current competion, whoever loses this one are out of the comp for this season, but if Montpellier were to score a bonus point win their chances of qualification would still be alive. The game was started by the ref John Lacey and the first half was all Montpellier, the scrums were solid and the rucks and mauls powerful, Toulon did not have an answer to Montpellier’s sharp and aggressive play, all this was mastered by a Ruan Pienaar who orchestrated everything from the base of his scrum.
The first points on the board was a penalty apiece from Trinh-Duc then Pienaar 3-3, but it was not long before Montpellier got their first try, good work from the forwards, then an off load pass by Louis Picamoles saw Jan Serfontein go over under the sticks, Pienaar added the extras and Montpellier were 10-3 to the good, Montpellier kept the pressure on Toulon and rarely did the visitors get out of their own half, but the ball now resembling a bar of soap handling was ni on impossible, and of course the rain continued in abundance. Ruan Pienaar was giving Eric Escande the ex Montpellier scrum half a nightmare of an afternoon, he was all over him giving the younger No9 no time to do or think, he probably will not sleep well tonight. Montpellier continued to use the ball well short passes and nothing spectacular but very workman like in their execution, and it paid of in the 34th min. a good rolling maul, the ball came out and offered Henry Immelman a try in the corner, the conversion was missed but the score moved on to15-3. Just before the halftime whistle Trinh-Duc added a penalty for Toulon and the teams went to the changing rooms, the score 15-6 to the hosts Montpellier.
The second half got under way with more rain pouring onto the pitch and players making rugby very difficult, Cottin replaced Escande for Toulon, not his best game ever, but conditions and an ever present Ruan Pienaar saw to that. Montpellier had a line out 5mts out, Fulgence Ouedraogo collected from the throw and the forwards trundled forward, the ball was in the hands of the young Vincent Guidicelli when they went over, I’m sure Bismark Du Plessis was having a proud moment watching from the stands as he has scored many of the same and always giving great advice to the younger Vincent, Pienaar again added the extras and Montpellier has a commanding 22-6 lead. 51st min and this time after a disastrous clearance kick from Trinh-Duc, Francois Steyn picked up the pigskin and set off, no one could get near him he drew the last defender and gave the perfect pass to Ruan Pienarr who dived 5mts out and slide over the line, with the defender nearly surfing in his wake he added his own extras 29-6, and that was the 4th try and bonus point for Montpellier
Toulon did get a try from Mamuka Gorgodze who as pre usual was giving his all for Toulon and deserved his 5points, the extras were added, 29-13. The biggest cheer of the game came in the 64th min. when Benoit Paillaugue came off the bench, his first appearance for a very long time. after his serious injury, and he got straight into it, defending as he does and giving some great ball out to Johan Goosen at 10. In the dying minute another great maul from the forwards and this time it was Levan Chilachava hanging onto the ball as the forwards went over for the 5th and final try, Benoit Paillaugue wound down the clock, but missed the conversion, Mon. Lacey also very wet decided enough was enough and ended the game, Montpellier 34 Toulon 13.
This excellent victory has kept Montpellier’s hopes of qualification alive, they may need 2 bonus point wins in January but all is still possible. Ruan Pienaar got Man of the Match which he deserved, both Toulon scrum halves were probably glad to see the back of him after 80mins, but everybody for Montpellier need to be congratulated they played as a team with Power, Pride, and Passion plus plenty of aggression which will be needed next week when they are away to Grenoble 3 days before Christmas. This game shows that if the mind set is good anything is possible and this victory could well kick start the rest of the season for the boys. Of course Vern Cotter and his staff are to be congratulated for their preparation for this game and also helping to get that smile back on our Presidents face.