Le 16 avril 2019

The last 4 games, 4 victories, but this weekend a huge task for Montpellier, an away game against Racing in their new Paris Stadium, which will be a first for the boys in blue.  Montpellier is still in 9th position despite these last 4 victories but is only 5 points off the 6th placed team so a victory this Sunday lunchtime will do them the power of good.

The game started on time and both teams tested their strengths against the opposition, but Racing had much more of the ball than Montpellier, this led to the first of two penalties for the Parisians, both converted by Machenaud giving them a 6-0 lead after just 17minuts. Slowly Montpellier were getting themselves into the game and looked increasingly dangerous on several occasions, and after some excellent work from the young winger Gaby Ngandebe creating space down the touchline, he freed the ball and after the following maul Benoit Paillaugue dived over from close range, he converted his own try with an excellent kick from the touchline, 6-7 and Montpellier had their noses in for the first time in the game. This drove Montpellier forward and they started to show their true colours, Montpellier were given a penalty for a late tackle, La Paille lined up his kick but it hammered against the upright the ball bounced towards the touch line, Paillaugue bounded after it, collected and set up a ruck the ball came out and a quick pass to Jan Serfontein and over he went, La Paille just missed the conversion from the touch line, but Montpellier had increased their lead to 6-12. Just 2minuts to go before half time, if Montpellier could hold on until the siren they would be in a very commanding position, then disaster struck !! First a yellow card for Chilachava for lying on the ball but he probably did save a certain try. From the following penalty Racing chose the scrum option, the ball came out and Dulin dived over, but the ref went to the video, the try was disallowed as his feet were over the touch line. The referee gave Racing another penalty this time it was the flanker Chouzenoux who went over in the 48th minut, yes 8 minuts of extra time in the first half, the conversion was passed by Machenaud and the teams went to the break 13-12 to the home side.

The second got under way and Montpellier had everything to play for, a 5th victory on the roll was very possible, the first score was for Montpellier, again La Paille whacked over a great penalty from the half way line giving Montpellier a very slender advantage 13-15. This was quickly evened out by Machenaud 16-15, this game was going to the wire and nobody was betting money on who would come out winner. The game was now going into free flow with both teams playing good rugby and only some last ditch tackling stopped further scores, however Racing had another penalty after several players were caught offside, again Machenaud did not miss the score moving on to 19-15. Aaron Cruden replaced the young Thomas Darmon and was straight into the action passing an excellent penalty bringing Montpellier to just one tiny point 19-18 and just 19 minuts left on the clock.  Montpellier were beginning to believe in themselves and when Serfontein served the young flyer Ngandebe, he went off like a rocket with his dancing feet beating one after another of the opposition, he was brought down just mts. short, La Paille who chased got the ball and again dived over for a great try, this time it was Aaron Cruden who added the extras and if this was the final score Montpellier would come out winners 19-25. Fairy tales don’t often come true and after a series of Racing attacks, and a yellow card for Jacques du Plessis, that try that Montpellier tried to resist was finally scored, long time Racing player Chavancy who only knows his one and only club in his career went over from close range, and Machenaud added the extras 26-25 to Racing with just 2 minuts left on the clock. Montpellier tried their level best but could not score again and the referee blew for time there was just one tiny point which separated the 2 teams, joy for Racing and near tears for Montpellier who thought they had almost got themselves a great victory away from home.

This was an excellent performance by Montpellier but 2 yellow cards and some grubby discipline spoiled what could have been a great after match party but a special pat on the back to the youngsters of MHR for their excellent efforts, plus a great performance by Benoit Paillaugue. The qualification for the end of season play-offs took a massive knock today but it’s still possible, difficult yes but impossible not at all. Next week the Euro semis take place so Montpellier have 2 weeks to work on how to get themselves 5 points against Grenoble on their next game at home on the 27th April. KO 18.45.

Steve Whittell