Merci, there's a first time for everything

Le 18 mars 2019

Normally when this game comes around it’s by how many Montpellier are going down. There have been some batterings throughout many seasons and Montpellier have always come off the worst, just one day , just maybe things might change. The game was brought forward an hour by Canal Plus so the KO was scheduled for 17.00 which gave to a very dry and sunny afternoon. A very good crowd of just over 13,000 were present to watch the game.

The first half did not go too well for Montpellier. They spent most of the time on the back foot, with a very tricky period after 20mins. 2 tries were scored by the home team the first from Van de Merwe, then their second from scrum half Rhys Webb which was very classy. This gave Toulon a very commanding 12-0 lead, and things looked as though this was going to be, same old same old. In the 29th min. the young and adventurous Reilhac got hold of the ball tapped forward, collected and was brought down just 5 meters short, the ball came out quickly and a Montpellier had a 4 against 2 advantage. Vincent Martin did not need the 2 players on his outside and he waltzed in unopposed, the extras were added by newly appointed Capt. Benoit Paillaugue, 12-7 to Toulon but Montpellier were back in this game. There were no more scores in the first half and Montpellier were still in with a chance but it was certainly was not the best half of rugby they had played this season.

The second half got under way and whatever was said at half time showed almost immediately, this was a new Montpellier, more aggressive in the rucks and mauls, a scrum that got better and Francois Steyn kicking from No10 with class and accuracy. The first to score were Montpellier after great work from the forwards they stole a ball from the opposition and started to move forward, Bismark Du Plessis at the back of the maul finally got over the line with the ball and the try was awarded. The extras were added By Benoit Paillaugue : 15-14 this is the closest Montpellier had been for many a season. Trinh-Duc added another penalty for Toulon after a fault 18-14, but this game was far from over, Montpellier attacked well and were just short a couple of times but this was good stuff from the visitors. They kept up the pressure on Toulon and after a series of penalties, all kicked into touch and a yellow for Ollivon for another fault, Montpellier gathered the following line out and it came out to Steyn who kicked across the pitch for Immelman who palmed it to Reilhac who finished it of under the sticks, Benoit added the extras and Montpellier had their noses in front for the first time in the game 18-21. There was still 10 mins. on the clock so it was still anyones game.

Carbonel had a try disallowed after a tiny forward pass which went to the video, but the decision was correct, this did create a bunch of handbags in the Montpellier try line, after Paillaugue had been narked in the celebrations and of course he went after the player concerned and threw himself at him.  Handbags were next and both players were talked to by the ref M. Lafon. The final 10mins. were nail biting but Montpellier held out with a series of pick and goes until that horn sounded and the ball went straight out of the ground, first ever victory at Mayol for the boys from the Herault. This was a game of two halves with Toulon explosive in the first and then the turn of Montpellier in the second, they had more discipline, better aggression and the forwards played together as a pack which has been lacking in recent weeks. Francois Steyn controlled everything from the No10 spot and the youngsters who were abundant on the team sheet did themselves proud. This was the first ever victory at Toulon in the professional era lets hope this can be repeated next week in Pau, and keep the candle burning for that end of season qualification which will need many victories at home and away but nothing is impossible.

Steve Whittell.