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Le 03 mars 2014
The last few weeks has seen Montpellier drop out of the Top 6, get back in, climb up to 2nd place, drop back to 5th, where they find themselves before last nights game against Stade Francais, who were sitting pretty in second place 3 points clear of Montpellier on 56 points, so the hosts had no excuses, the win was imperative and denying the bonus point to Stade would be even more impressive. The evening was cold with a strong northern wind that bought shivers through the spines of the quality crowd of 12,693, 99% were Montpellier supporters as Stade Francais flags were difficult to spot on this cold wintry evening.
The game was a very nervous affair in the first half both sides trying to play rugby but mistakes and bad choices came to the surface on numerous occasions, even both kickers Paillaugue and Steyn were not having much success and could not pass anything between the posts plus there were a couple of attempts at drop goals but they went awol as well. There were a couple of yellow cards one for Fillol in the 25th min. quickly followed by Thibault Privat getting a 10 min rest in the bin after a lineout infringement. Montpellier came close to scoring a couple of times but mistakes stopped them from getting on the scoreboard, only Mon Poite the man in the middle was making a name for himself, well amongst the crowd that is for his very nervy form of reffing, but in the TOP 14 this is becoming a weekly episode. Finally the Mon Poite blew for the break with a very old fashioned score of 0-0; we certainly don’t get many of those in today’s modern pro rugby.
The second half saw Montpellier come out of the starting blocks, à la Usain Bolt, whatever was said at half time or whatever was eaten it worked, an attack was created in the opposition 22 and Rene (the taupe) Ranger threw a dummy pass and crashed over for the first try of the game, the extras were added by Benoit Paillaugue, both of the players sporting close cropped hairstyles obviously streamlined for speed, and finally Montpellier got their noses in front 7-0. Exactly 2 mins. later Rene the taupe was at it again down the touchline, he broke two tackles and side flipped a pass to the chasing Benoit Pallaugue he collect and had an easy run in, grounding the ball in the corner, a difficult conversion with the strong wind which went just wide and a mini break had been create 12-0 to the hosts Morne Steyn passed a penalty to reduce the score to 9 pts, this gave Stade Francais more enthusiasm and they started using the ball well interchanging between backs and forwards and they quickly got themselves back into the game with a score from the young Danty who just managed to stretch out and get the ball on the line, Steyn added the extras and all of a sudden it was 12-10 and still 25mins left on the clock!!! Both sides battled to increase their scores, but the solid defences held out, although Montpellier did have a couple of very close calls when Stade Francais came charging through and only one or two last ditch tackles kept their lines clean. The tension was mounting and that famous money time was approaching, no mistakes take the 4 points and leave the bonus point to Stade Francais, a last scrum to Montpellier after the siren had sounded,  now win the ball and get it into touch , match won up the table we go!! Jonathon Pelissie who had replaced the Little Big Man decided otherwise, Jimmy Nagusa called for a chip kick from the base of the ruck the Stade defence had moved up “Et Voila” perfection from the Pelissie kick Jimmy collected and dived over in the corner, the advantage was 7 pts. Bold as Brass Francois Trinh-Duc took the ball and called ownership for the very difficult conversion,  why worry, it sailed over and Montpellier had just stolen the Stade’s defensive bonus point, how important will that be at the end of the season.???
Match over, Montpellier worthy winners 19-10, it was not a class affair but the importance of the match with both sides wrestling for that all 2nd place spot behind Clermont, all the tension that was involved kept everybody on their seats right up to and even pasted the final siren. A very good job well done by Montpellier, Nico Mass getting the Man of the Match award  which shows International props don’t tire that easily, he was majestic in all he did, but the forward unit played well and defended like lions, Francois Trinh-Duc led his backs with charisma and authority, Pierre Berard was solid at fullback replacing the injured Anthony Floch and Rene the Taupe is beginning to become a very interesting problem for the opposition, with every match he proves his worth in more ways than one. The coaches Galthie, Ledesma, and Glas, all have been involved at one time or another with Stade Francais so happy bunnies they were, having got the satisfaction of another great and most important of wins, and after the post match interviews Fabien Galthie was pleased as punch showing to all his recently acquired prize truffle!!!  The players and staff have now a well deserved holiday and will be backing 10 days time in preparation for the next game which is away to Oyonnax on the 21/22 of March, another difficult game , but there are no longer any easy ones in this seasons TOP 14.
Interview with Paul Grant, Montpellier’s Flanker
Steve Whittell: Paul Grant it does not get more exciting than that, what a finish by Montpellier!!!
Paul Grant: Yes awesome, the boys stuck to the task right to the very end, we kept our composure and the kick was pure brilliance when everybody thought he was going to kick it out to finish the game off, but Jimmy called and the chase was on, he won it easily end of story, and what a conversion by Francois from the touch line and on the wrong side, loads of pressure on the guy he does not kick that often, but that was a beauty, over it went Brilliant!!!
Steve Whittell: Francois will remember that for a while taking the bonus point away from Stade!!
Paul Grant:  Did not realise that!! too enthralled in the game but of course you are right, they go home with nothing except a few bruises and a battered ego, but that was a very intense game of rugby very tough upfront and the tackling was very challenging but we defending well had 10 glorious minutes at the start of the 2nd half, but we had to defend for long periods after that, just shows how well this team is developing into a very interesting and strong unit.
Steve Whittell: The team on the whole played very well + the pressure is now on for the top 6 places.
Paul Grant: They did well, but it was a tough game out there, all credit to Stade they came here looking for points and their attack was good they played very well, but as I said before the 10 mins of magic at the start of the 2nd half did us a great deal of good and kept our concentration, but as I said before this is one tough Championship.
Steve Whittell: Blood guts and hard graft goes a long way sometimes!!!
Paul Grant: Without a doubt, but we knew if we put in the hard yards tomorrow we are on holiday and that is motivation enough, so all in all an excellent evening and a we all have won a good rest for the next 10 days or so .
Steve Whittell: Cheers Paul, Happy Holidays!!! go join the boys there is a little celebrating to do tonight.