Le 21 octobre 2019

After three games where the discipline was more than disastrous Montpellier had to control their penalty count, as the visit of French Champions Toulouse would not help their progress in the early part of this new season if they did not. Both teams have been stripped of many Internationals as the current World Cup continues, but both are still able to field teams of both class and imagination. The day was clear with a fair amount of wind and the pitch a little damp but still in a condition to play exciting rugby. Toulouse is known for their ball play and Montpellier would have to have their defence in place to avoid their first defeat on home soil. The game that Coach Xavier Garbajosa has been putting in place on the training park is not too unfamiliar with the Toulouse method, he was one of their best players over a long number of years, the difference being Toulouse have been playing this style for countless years and Montpellier are still very new to the style, but they are slowly adapting to the situation.

The first half of this game saw a very rare and excellent Montpellier penalty count giving away only one kickable penalty which was converted by Toulouse’s Ramos who just recently returned from Japan injured, but still fit to play for Toulouse ? Montpellier had an excellent first 40mins. with Anthony Bouthier taking over the roll of no.10 as Aaron Cruden who was pulled out at the last minute after a training incident which left him concussed and it a wise decision for him to sit this one out, this meant bringing in Thomas Darmon on the bench and Henri Immelman to full back, with Anthony Bouthier taking over the goal kicking duties. Penalties were exchanged in the first 20mins 2 for Montpellier and one for Toulouse 6-3, then the first try of the game from our speedster winger Gabby Ngandebe who outclassed everyone with his Porsche type acceleration leaving everyone behind him, the extras were added by Anthony Bouthier and clear light was there for all to see 10-3 to the hosts. Montpellier were playing an excellent clean rugby moving the ball inside and outside trying to outfox the Toulouse defence, and 15mins later the very same Gabby went over for his second try of the game which the on target Bouthier added the extras and going into half time Montpellier had a resounding lead 20-3. No doubt Coach Xavier Garbajosa would not be singing from the rooftops at the break but he must be inwardly satisfied with the first 40mins.

The second half got underway and although the penalty count increased Montpellier concentrated on their game plan, Toulouse responded with a try from Werner Kow after a clever grubber kick which he pounced on as it went into the hallowed ground, the accurate Ramos added the extras and the score was 20-10 and all to play for. Anthony Bouthier added another penalty but that was quickly equalled by a Ramos effort keeping the scoreboard moving to 23-13. Our World Cup medical joker Lizo Gqoboka did not last long on the park, on he came then mins. later off he went off after receiving a yellow for an infringe, but he was quickly followed by Verhaegue who was sent marching after a nasty shoulder charge to the head of Paul Willemse who had to leave the park concussed, he was replaced by Julien Ledevedec, the culprit was very lucky only to receive a yellow and not the red that the foul probably deserved. Montpellier got a penalty on the half way line and Henri Immelman wanted the ball, not often seen as a replacement kicker, the young South African placed the ball on the tee and thumped it towards the sticks it soared high and went over, Bravo Sir!! No frills no time wasting just genuine class from a player who improves on every outing. Ramos cancelled that one out with one of his own and Toulouse was still in touching distance 26-19. In the 71st min. tales of fairy stories, Jimmy Nagusa who was making his 200 appearance for the club went over in the corner just avoiding the touch line, the crowds reaction was pure brilliance, you always dream of scoring on your 200th but it rarely happens, WELL DONE JIMMY !!! This moved the score onto 31-19 as Anthony Bouthier added the extras; the only score was another penalty for Ramos and at full time the score is 33 - 22. 

Well done Montpellier, penalty count well below the previous weeks and some excellent rugby played to a very high level, it was not perfect, but considering it was the French Champions Toulouse the boys needed to be complemented on their efforts. After the game flowers were presented to the wives of World Cup Jokers Jannie Du Plessis, Lizo Gqoboka, Aaron Cruden and Ronan Chambord. Jannie and Aaron were presented with 2 fabulously personalised armchairs in the colours of the club with their No’s on the backrests for their contributions of their time at Montpellier, although Jannie will stay on as Coach for the Espoirs.

There is now a 2 week break for the players the next match is on the weekend of the 9th Nov. and we are away at the Stade Mayol v Toulon another difficult match to be met with the same courage and technique as shown v Toulouse today.

Steve Whittell.