CHRISTMAS COMES EARLY FOR TOULOUSE
The fourth pool 5 game of this season’s Champions Cup, the visitors Toulouse, who took the 4 points last weekend, and will be looking for a win away from home against Montpellier, the Toulouse selection was as strong as it could possibly be, with the starting 15 full of Internationals, and players of quality. Montpellier had rested a few players and it was a starting XV, which had a slightly different look about it. This was a must win game for Montpellier as they have 2 defeats and 1 win so far, if they want to progress to the ¼ finals they must more or less win the remaining 3 games, a very difficult task but nothing is impossible. The match had a Saturday 16.00 ko. and both teams had the privilege of having Nigel Owens the man in charge, probably the best referee in the World at this moment in time.
The match did not start well for Montpellier from the kick off Goosen hammered the ball directly into touch, scrum on the 50 meters line, small mistakes which can count as the match develops. In the 3rd minut massive blow for Montpellier Louis Picamoles went down unassisted and it looked like a very serious knee injury, he was stretchered off and if it’s a ligament injury he could well have played his last game of the season, Caleb Timu replaced the unlucky Louis. The game was very pleasant to watch and the ball was being thrown about the park with both teams doing their level best to attack at every occasion. The 14th minut and Montpellier attacked the Toulouse try line the ball was lost and Toulouse attacked from deep inside their own half, the ball went through several hands before Ntamack finished it off, excellent try which is Toulouse’s trade mark, the extras were added by Ramos and Toulouse had a 0-7 lead. Montpellier quickly fought back with a try of their own, Fulgence Ouedraogo just back from injury was the last person to grab the ball and over he went, after great work from Timu and Nadolo, Goosen added the extras and it was all square at 7 piece. Johan Goosen added a penalty for Montpellier and they took a slender lead 10-7, minutes later he added another to gain a very precious 6pts leas 13-7. The first of the Christmas presents arrived Goosen wanted a field kick to go over the try line to touch down for a 22 meters drop out, the ball stopped just before the line, Goosen slipped and the linesman had his flag up for touch, Guitoune reacted quickly and threw a quick touch to Cross who gave Rory Arnold the easiest try of his long career, the extras were added by Ramos and Toulouse had their noses in front 14-13. Both teams continued to attack right up to the final whistle for half time, with all to play for the teams went to the break with Toulouse just one point in front 13-14.
The second half got underway and it was much of the same both teams attacking every chance they had and the match was very pleasant for the supporters and it was not long before Father Christmas appeared again for Toulouse, this time Montpellier attacked inside their 22 meters line Bismark du Plessis threw a pass out and there was Arnold once again who intercepted and trundled the few meters to the Montpellier try line, Ramos added the extras 13-22, another perfect gift and 2 tries straight from Lapland. This sort of error can happen to anyone and Bismark had been playing well stealing several ruck balls but it happens all the time, Arnold must be thinking wow 2 gifts and 2tries how often does that happen. Montpellier continued to fight on all fronts and they got a try back from the impressive Nadolo who crashed over in the corner, the conversion hit the post and stayed out, Montpellier was just 4 points in arrears 18-22. In the collision with Nadolo, Kolbe had to leave the park and was replaced by Tauzin. Montpellier tried their level best to score that all important winning try but that pleasure came to Toulouse who in the 80th minute attacked and the ball came out to the fresh Tauzin who crashed over in the corner, the extras were missed and the final score Montpellier 18 Toulouse 26.
The game itself was great to watch and Montpellier were disciplined, gave away few penalties but 2 Christmas pressies did not help their cause and the score could have been very different indeed without them, but that’s life!! Montpellier has now no chance to qualify so concentration on the TOP 14 which starts again next weekend with a visit to Racing.
My Man of the Match was Yvan Reilhac who never stopped trying in both attack and defence, he will one day be selected in the National squad if he continues to work hard and keep his head down.