Le 20 mai 2019

The task that was confronting Montpellier this weekend was huge and they could well need a helping hand from the opposition of Racing, Castres and La Rochelle as it was so tight for the last 3 play-off places of this season’s TOP 14. Whatever happens Montpellier had to win at Clermont or it was all over for this season, a massive task but Montpellier have won in Clermont for the past 4 seasons so why not make it 5 in a row, not many would be backing Montpellier with their life savings but the atmosphere and dedication the boys are showing at this very moment is sky high and they are in no doubt that they can overcome the near impossible, as Clermont are already qualified in 2nd place they no walk over especially in front of their home supporters nearly 19,000 the best attendance of the season for them. Montpellier had to make 2 last minute changes both Bismark Du Plessis and Gabby Ngandebe had to withdraw, they were replaced by Jimmy Nagusa and Youri Delhommel, plus no Louis Picamoles or Fulgence Ouedraogo because of their concussions last weekend so the task was even bigger than normal.

The game got under way and first on the score board was Montpellier with 2 penalties from Captain Benoit Paillaugue 0-6 and Montpellier were up and flying, the lead did not last long, a smart move from the elusive Fofana who served Raka and over he went for the games first try, Laidlaw added the extras and Clermont were in front 7-6. Benoit added another penalty to sneak a 7-9 lead but this was quickly passed by the second try for Clermont, again Fofana made the break and served Moala on a platter, and over he went, Laidlaw again added the extras and it was 14-9 to Clermont. This game was being played at break neck speed and it was going to go right to the last minute and either team could win. From the kick off Montpellier attacked and Aaron Cruden pull out a little All Black magic great skills got him the opening he needed but was tackled just short but still had time to pass to Youri Delhommel who arrived like a steam train, he crashed over for his very first TOP 14 try, La Paille added the extras and Montpellier back in front 14-16.The last 10mins or so saw no more scores but plenty of excitement and finally the ref blew for the break the score staying at 14-16 for Montpellier.

The second half got under way and Laidlaw knocked over another penalty for the lead to change again 17-16, next came yellow cards for Falatea and Yvan Watremez as the scrums had not been great all match and finally Mon.Raynal sent both to the bin for 10mins. as yet another scrum collapsed, another penalty for Clermont they advanced to 20-16, but that did not last too long as next to score was Nemsie Nadolo as he forced himself over the line, but did he go into touch on the way, the ref goes to video hearts stopped on both sides and finally Mon Raynal awards the try 20-21 and once again the lead changed hands, this game is 100% excitement, La Paille missed the conversion but Montpellier still had the tiniest of leads, exactly one very large point. The 66th min and Montpellier attacked the Clermont line with a perfect rolling maul and it was that youngster Youri Delhommel who grounded the pigskin, second try of the game for him it even put a massive smile on the face of Bismark Du Plessis, who was maybe thinking I may have to up my game this boy is good, La Paille again added the extras and Montpellier has an 8pts lead 21-28. This again did not last long as Lopez found touch with a penalty and the following lineout saw Ulugia go over after a good rolling maul from Clermont, Laidlaw added the extras and again one very small point separated the two teams 27-28 with just 9 mins. left on the clock. News was coming through Castres were loosing 16-25 so Montpellier had to hang on to this 1pt lead whatever happens. The last few minutes Montpellier played hide and no seek with the ball giving Clermont no chance of a penalty or drop goal to retake the lead, finally the siren went and Montpellier were qualified for the play-offs as Toulon had just beaten Castres which meant that Castres fell to 7th place and Montpellier kept their 6th place.

The joy on the faces of both players and coaches, La Paille team Capt was close to tears but nobody will deny him that, he played like a demented lion urging his team on and just showing pure class while he was on the park. All the team is to be congratulated as this was a team effort with all the players outstanding, the mental was brilliant and everybody played their part in this great victory. So next week barrage vs Lyon who finishing 3rd have home advantage but the way Montpellier are playing that means absolutely nothing to the boys as they could well go to Lyon next Saturday June 1st ko. 17.00 and take the honours. Once again everybody is asking the same question “is this Montpellier’s season” only time will tell, but for now more hard work this week to get ready for the quarter final next Sat. in Lyon

Steve Whittell.