HUGE IMPORTANCE IN THIS VICTORY
Victories have been rare this season and Montpellier have had several months of propping up the Championship along with Agen, but light is starting to shine at the end of the tunnel. There are massive steps still to be taken, with an end of season run in against some of the better teams of the TOP 14. Friday evening’s game saw what everyone who supports Montpellier have been waiting for, commitment for the full 80mins. no shirking and a team solidized by their efforts both individual and collectively. They just never gave up and the joy that exploded when the ref blew time was one of pure delight to see, the tension was exhaled and most of all a massive relief could be seen on all the players faces, even President Altrad was hugging his players, this scene was one of a band of brothers who have just taken the first real step to playing TOP 14 rugby next season.
Everyone knows that Montpellier are not at their best and the thinking in general is that points can be taken even playing away from home, and Clermont were well aware of this for this Friday evening clash.
The game itself was a rugged and physical the effort from both teams was warrior like, hard fought in every quarter, 2 tries in the first half, one from Anthony Bouthier back from Paris and International duty who was served on a platter after great work from Jan Serfontein, and just before half time Raka went over for Clermont. The big difference was the penalty count especially in Clermont’s half, Alex Lozowski having a perfect 5 from 5.
The half time score was in Clermont’s favour but only just 10-13, and it only took a moment of inattention for the Raka try just before the half time whistle, but with 40 mins. left, Montpellier had every chance to get back into this game and take the 4points.
The second half got underway and the physical carried on, both teams giving only inches in the battle of the big boys, while both sets of three-quarters defended with their lives, knowing one mistake could possibly lose them the game.
Alex Lozowski levelled the score at 13-13 on the 50min. mark, then again he and Lopez swapped penalties to move the score onto 16-16, one small mistake was going to end this game and the last 10mins was brutal, the tackling was immense with both teams holding watertight defences, nobody wanted to crack, but Clermont did with 2 penalties in the last few minutes, both converted by Alex Lozowski to give the final score to Montpellier 22-16 and take away the defensive bonus point from Clermont, another act of defiance.
After the handshakes Montpellier huddled and then burst into song with Martin Devergie doing a reasonable song and dance routine, much to the amusement of everyone present, but all the players got into the act releasing the tension that has been building up for many weeks.
A mention for Yannick Arroyo who came on in the 57min. shored up the scrum which had been the weaker of Montpellier’s performance, but he also had 3 great steals from rucks at very decisive moments, if he carries on like this he will be starting not sitting on the bench waiting for his turn to come.
This is a massive step forward, but Montpellier is far from safe, the lesson they learned tonight was physical collective rugby pays dividends, inches wins battles, you win the battles then the wars become easier victories as well. We will see how the other matches pans out this weekend to evaluate the position come Monday morning. What everybody knows is the end of season games against Bayonne and Pau are going to be ultra important, but with massive efforts before those games Montpellier could already be safe from any end of season disasters.