Pride followed by frustration
Montpellier still have their infirmary moreorless full with a dozen or so players still out, one or two on the verge of just about being fit again like Benoit Paillaugue, but still there are plenty of players missing.
Stade Francais have had a good start to the season and are currently in 2nd position just behind Clermont, so this will be a massive challenge for Montpellier as they have a very different look to their usual line up. Stade on the other hand were just about at full strength fielding a team that looked excellent in depth and a very competent bench. The game was started by M.Garces and Stade showed their dominance from the start, the forwards gained ground every time they had the ball which was most of the first half, but Montpellier defended well and did their level best to keep them out with some good defensive tackling.
The first score went to Stade with a Steyn penalty 3-0, and it was not long before their first try. Montpellier were under enormous pressure the ball came out of the ruck and went through the backs, Fickou sent out the miss pass to Waisea who cantered over unopposed, this came after Stade had pummeled the Montpellier try line for several mins. The extras were added by Steyn who looked in good form with his enormous boot. Nothing was working well for Montpellier and they had their backs to the wall doing an awful lot of defending, but they did this well keeping the Stade attack at bay with some good tackling.
In the 26th min. a little Aaran Cruden magic was a chip kick collected by Wiaan Liebenberg who gave the pigskin straight back to Cruden for him to go over into the hallowed ground with no one but Liebenberg near him, he added the extras himself and Montpellier were back in the game 10-7. Cruden added another penalty just before half time 10-10 but Montpellier were struggling in the battle of the forwards, losing momentum in the scrums and some sloppy line out work. Just before half time Fickou got over the line but no on was sure whether he had downward pressure on the ball, the ref spent several mins. before awarding the try, but for most except of course the Stade fans he had lost control, the ref and video decided a try and although their were protests the decision stood, the extras were missed and Stade went to the break with a slight advantage 15-10. The ref blew for the pause but Montpellier would need to pull their socks up if they were to get anything out of this game.
The second half got underway and after only 5mins. Montpellier changed their entire front row, maybe now the scrums would see a little more stability for Montpellier and it worked, within a minute, penalty for Montpellier and Cruden got Montpellier closer with his kick 15-13. Montpellier started to get themselves back into the game with a little more dominance up front and had several opportunities to score but just fell short. Steyn kicked another penalty for Stade to increase their lead to 18-13 but for the moment Montpellier still had that bonus defensive point. Into the last 10mins of the game, again Pienaar chipped another kick forward the ball bounced back surprisingly towards the Montpellier forwards following the kick, the pass then went to Liebenberg who gave perfection to Kevin Kornath and he scampered towards the line with a couple of defenders on his tail, just enough for him to go over colliding with an upright on the way, the extras were added and Montpellier had their noses in front for the first time in the game 18-20. Only 5mins left on the clock and a kick misses touch for Montpellier Stade attack the Montpellier try line and the ball is sent out towards the wing where Macalou was waiting and using his power and force he got over the line to break the morale of Montpellier, the extras were added by Steyn and Stade were in front 25-20 with only 3mins to play on the clock.
In the dying minutes of the game Montpellier tried to attack from their own try line but it was not to be, finally the ref blew for full time and once again like at Newcastle last week, Montpellier had lost a game in the money time that they could have well won. Mixed feelings for the boys as they fought hard throughout the game, the first half was not great, but massive improvement in the second and a tiny lapse in concentration lost them a game they could well have pocketed the 4pts. Good to see Aaron Cruden playing well after his lay off and Alex Dumoulin showing he is a very good centre both in attack and defense, the youngsters tried their level best, Vincent, Reilhac, Giudicelli, Ngandebe all showing they have a great career ahead of them. The scrum was much better in the second half but more work is needed there, and in the lineout’s.
Next week Racing at home on Sunday afternoon KO. 16.50, the last game before the Autumn Internationals, another extremely tough game for the boys but these days they are all tough and concentration for the whole 80mins of the game is needed, or as we have seen in the last 2 games both were lost in the dying minutes when victory was knocking on the door.