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Jeudi 17 Avril 2014
Montpellier started this week in first position of this season’s TOP 14, but Friday night saw Clermont just mange to beat Castres at home and sneak past Montpellier 3 points to the good, but The Cistes had a game to play away to Grenoble a team this season who have had their ups and downs, very strong at home but seldom gaining points away from their fortress. The match was to be played in the reasonably new Stade des Alpes the capacity a very good 20,000 and it was more or less full with an excellent attendance of 19,000, basked in a beautiful azurien sunshine which reached temperature of + 30°. Montpellier fielded a team with Rene Ranger back from injury, and a pack and bench which would hopefully cause the home side a few problems. The Montpellier support was excellent with a growing band of followers to support their heroes and the fact it was a very warm weekend always helps move the away followings to larger numbers is good to see.
 
The match started well for Montpellier with an individual effort from Jimmy Nagusa who gave the ball to Mamuka Gorgodze and with a little lob pass Alex Tulou was free to score the 1st points of the game; the extras were added by Jonathon Pelissie. 0-7 for the visitors, Montpellier. Three penalties were added, 2 by Hart for Grenoble and one by the young Pelissie from 50mts out a great effort, score 6-10. Minutes later Montpellier who were doing all the attacking got themselves close the following maul and Pelissie gave Alex Tulou the ball and he crashed over for his second try of the game, Francois Trinh-Duc added the extras 6-17, this was quickly followed by another FTD penalty to move the score to 6-20. In the 37th minute Montpellier defending played a fast ball to FTD, he gave  Jimmy Nagusa  the opportunity he just loves space and 80 mts in front of him; Jimmy needed no prompting he rounded the defenders and the new slim speedy Jim did what he does best, score tries and got himself on the score board which gave him his 10th TOP 14 try of the season again FTD added the extras 6-27 and a bonus point for the moment in hand, the ref blew for the pause and Montpellier had made a great 1st half effort going into see their coaches leading by 27-6.
 
The second half was not quite the same cup of tea, obviously words were said in the Grenoble changing room and they returned onto the park with fire in their bellies, tries followed by Farley and then ex Montpellerian Benji Thiery, both converted by Hart and then Caminati, FTD did manage a couple of penalties to keep a certain distance between the two teams but the pressure was on and Grenoble thought victory was a possibility as the score had move onto 23 – 33. FTD knocked over a last penalty in the 67th minute but Grenoble continued their onslaught of the Montpellier try line, the visitors defended with heart and souls for long periods of time without scoring themselves. Finally the defence caved in the 80th minute with a try fromVanderglas, to give the defending bonus point that Grenoble so desperately needed if they were to survive and play with the Elite next season, Caminati added the extras and Montpellier came out worthy winners 30-36 and also regained their No. 1 spot by a single point but that victory is worth it’s weight in gold.
 
The first half was a brilliant affair and where the match was won, Montpellier were on fire, the second half had to go to Grenoble but Montpellier came for the win and the 4 pts. and that’s what they got, the front row did an excellent job, The two Alex’s, Bias and Tulou gave more than 100% but that is normally for these guys, Pelissie against his former club showed style and class, FDT proved who bosses the No.10 spot in the TOP 14, the defence of Anthony Tuitavake was brutal and his attacking skills were not too shabby either, Robert Ebersohn played well with his Kiwi centre Tuitavake, and Jimmy Nagusa , well he was just Jimmy Nagusa ducking and diving, ball in hand like any class Fijian winger, on the negative side a couple of lost lineouts and two moments of sloppy defending which caused the comeback from Grenoble, and a couple of moments where FTD could have done à la Brock James in his own 22, a massive boot and see what happens next, as he was caught a couple of times holding the baby, but given that the rest of his game was more or less perfect he is excused.
 
Next Friday, KO 20.45, Montpellier are away to Castres who are lying 6th  in the TOP 14 they are not sure of play-off qualification so the pressure is on them, Montpellier have qualified for the play-offs, now will it be straight into the semis or a home quarter final game, surely nothing less, their destination is in their own hands a minimum point at Castres next Friday and a win in the last game of the season against Racing Metro and it could be new ground for Montpellier, but easier said than done, a massive effort will be needed by all, but when you are bossing the TOP 14 the task is slightly easier than lying 6 th and not sure of anything, a position which is something completely new to Montpellier but nevertheless very pleasant!!!
 
Steve Whittell.