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Gloucester make life difficult for Montpellier
Second round of this seasons European Champions Cup pool games with the visitors Gloucester being the hosts at the GGL Stadium. They have had a fairly average start to their season played 4 won 2 and lost 2, they are lying 5th in the Premiership, they lost their first outing in the Cup to Toulouse in a very close game, so are positioned with the same single point as Montpellier in pool 5. This game is a must win for Montpellier as a second loss would moreorless end their European campaign after only 2 games.
Gloucester had made several changes and some key players were not present but this does not mean they will rollover and die. aS we all know, when the Brits come over to France there is this added quantity of spice which is always interests the equation. They had brought with them a large number of fans and throughout the game their voices were heard with the old Gloucester, Gloucester chant, which reverbs from the infamous Shed every weekend they are at their home ground Kingsholm. Montpellier fielded a very strong team with the likes of Fulgence Ouedraogo, Bismark Du Plessis, and Nemzy Nadolo returning from long injuries, this will boost the home team’s chances as all three are a great addition to the team.
The game was started by Mon Clancy, never a great favourite with Montpellier but that’s life and hopefully things do change. Montpellier went straight onto the attack but Gloucester was playing a good defensive game and the first score was a Benoit Paillaugue penalty which gave the home side a slender 3-0 lead. Gloucester had a game plan of no kicking towards touch and even behind their own try line the ball was passed, the idea was to move Montpellier’s solid pack around the park and hopefully tire them out by the end of the 80mins.
The first try came after 20mins and it was centre Jan Serfontein, a kick forward by the young Reilhac, his co centre collected and went over, captain "La Paille" added the extras and Montpellier had a 10-0 lead. Montpelliers discipline which had been very suspect in the last few weeks was an added bonus as the boys did their level best to keep the penalty count to a bear minimum.
Gloucester scored their first points from a Billy 12trees penalty to get their scoreboard on the march. Montpellier had already taken all the advantages in the scrums, rucks, and mauls given the opposition a very hard time, this energy sapping play by Montpellier could well count in the last 20mins.of the game. 33rd minute and it was Caleb Timu who went over in force after excellent work from the pack, La Paille added the extras which gave a decent lead 17-3 for the hosts. Gloucester had a try after some shabby defending by Montpellier which was scored by Braley and converted by 12trees the score 17-10. On the stroke of half time Montpellier had a scrum 5mts. out and gained 4penalties, one after the other for scrum infringements, Mon Clancy did not reward Montpellier with a penalty try which did seem a little incredible but finally Nemsie Nadolo standing in the 10spot forced himself over for a well deserved try, La Paille adding the extras and Montpellier went to the break 24-10 a deserved lead and maybe a chance to press on and look for that necessary bonus point of 4 tries.
The second half got underway and Gloucester got a try back from Banahan the long serving Bath winger who is in his second season with the Cherry and Whites, 12trees added the extras and Gloucester were back in the game the score 24-17 and just a converted try separated the 2 teams. Montpellier got themselves a penalty which La Paille intelligently knocked over for an additional 3pts to keep the 10pts gap 27-17
In the 56th min Jaques Du Plessis saw some red mist in a ruck and got the same coloured card from the ref, a little harsh as it was 6 of one and half a dozen of the other with Grobler not being the all innocent angel, but Mon Clancy thought different and Montpellier were down to 14 for the rest of the game. 12trees added another penalty for Gloucester and the lead was just the 7pts again 27-20, Montpellier were having to defend for their lives to keep this slender lead. Capt La Paille added another penalty for the boys and to give them some breathing space 30-20 but this game was far from over. With 5 mins. to go on the clock, Simpson went over for Gloucester with 12trees adding the extras, 30-27, Montpellier were flagging playing with just 14 on the park but they needed to stay strong and keep that 3pt. lead.
Finally the ref blew for full time and Montpellier had their victory by the skin of their teeth, 30-27 which keeps them strong in the pool. They now have Toulouse away and then at home the 8th and 14th of Dec. and they may have to win both of these games to secure a first pool place before the final pool games in Jan. this will be a touch ask for the boys but if they envisage a ¼ final place it will have to be done.
Next week Montpellier are back to the TOP 14 with the visit of Lyon who are honourable leaders of this season’s championship, another very tough game for our boys where we may see the first appearance of Handre Pollard, World Cup Winner for his new club Montpellier.