Le 08 avril 2019

“So it’s not over till the fat lady sings.” 4 consecutive games, 4 victories and 18 points a month ago nobody gave Montpellier much chance of qualifying for the end of season playoffs, but now they are only 5 points of that target, of course it will be very difficult but far from impossible, 2 home games, but 3 tough games away against top opposition, Racing, Castres, and Clermont. This Saturday the visitors were Agen, managed by that great French centre Philippe Sella, Agen are in a difficult position, and they selected a younger team for this match, as if they win their remaining home games they will more than likely be playing TOP 14 rugby next season.

The match got underway and it was not long before Montpellier had their first score on the board, good work from the forwards near the Agen try line, and Captain Louis Picamoles crashed over, Benoit Paillaugue converted the extras with a great kick Montpellier 7 Agen 0. Montpellier was playing some excellent rugby, the ball was being thrown about but with precision and there were some great offloads. The 12th minut and Yvan Reilhac made a break down the middle, he kicked forward towards his wing and Jimmy tip toes Nagusa collected at speed dicing with the touch line but somehow he kept all his feet so close to the line it looked nearly impossible not to go into touch, but he managed somehow and over he went for Montpellier’s second try, again Benoit La Paille hoofed a great conversion from the touch line 14-0 to the hosts, next intervention by Jimmy Nagusa was a yellow and 10 minuts in the bin for a deliberate knock-on, Montpellier down to 14 men. This did not hinder Montpellier and they kept the attack to the maximum and Captain King Louis got his second try of the game, again excellent work from the forwards and 5 minuts from the line the King is unstoppable, once again La Paille converted and that was the bonus point try and a convincing 21-0 lead. Agen did threaten the Montpellier line several times but an excellent defence kept them out, and when the referee blew for half time the score was Montpellier 21 and Agen 0.

The second half got under way and Montpellier did not let up on the pressure, Henri Immelman attacked and got slaughtered in the tackle which was no arms, shoulder in the face and the player had both feet off the ground, most thought definite red card but the man in charge seemed to think differently and awarded just a penalty, but the poor Henri was down and out and had to leave the park for a definite concussion, he was replaced by Johan Goosen, back from injury. Agen did manage a penalty from Berdeu to reduce the score to 21-3. Next up was the young Yvan Reilhac, he burst through the Agen defence accelerated and left everyone for dead  going over for an excellent try, La Paille missed the conversion but that was 4 tries to nil and the bonus point protected, 26-3. Montpellier had a small period in the second half where they went off the boil and suffered 2 tries from Bosch and Heriteau both converted by Berdeu bring the score back to 26-17 and to make matters worse Paul Willemse got himself 10 minuts in the bin for a more than late challenge, plus the bonus point was no more, disaster and only 17mins left to play. Again down to 14 on the park Montpellier still kept up their attack on the Agen try line, first Momo Haouas thought he was over the line but the referee decided there was the smallest of knock ons, try refused. Paul Willemse did redeem himself, as he crashed over in the 72 minut helped by all his forwards after they had pummelled the Agen try line, again La Paille converted and the score moved onto 33-17. There were no more scores and finally the referee blew for full time and Montpellier had secured their 4th win on the trot with the bonus point, which will move them to within 5 points of that 6th place.

This was a controlled and efficient performance from Montpellier discipline needs to be looked at with 2 yellows which never help but Montpellier kept up the pressure for most of the game and after losing the bonus point; they showed great courage and guile to regain it with the Willemse try. Coach Vern Cotter gave a dual Man of the Match award to Thomas Darmon and Yvan Reilhac, which was well deserved, these two youngsters have a great future ahead of them if they keep their heads down and work hard, but they are not on there own, Montpellier have plenty of youngster coming through to challenge the more senior members of the team. All are to be congratulated for an excellent team performance, forwards and backs all played their part in this excellent victory.

Next Sunday Montpellier are off to Paris and play Racing in their new indoor Stadium, Racing are direct opposition for one of those 6 qualifying spots so points need to be brought back from Paris, a difficult task but at the moment the boys are on a roll and anything is possible, get the head set right and BELIEVE!!! and just maybe there will be rewards.

Steve Whittell.