MONTPELLIER ESCAPE WITH THE DRAW

Le 30 septembre 2019

Bordeaux were the visitors this Sunday lunchtime KO. 12.30, they have the honour of played 4 won 4, so they would not be coming to play second fiddle to hosts Montpellier, and with new coach Urios they were certainly lighting up the start of this new season, and would be a very difficult team to beat even at home. The weather was fine and sunny but a very disappointing crowd of only 8,000 plus were in attendance to see the leaders of this season’s TOP 14. The game got underway after a minutes applause for the passing away of French President Jacques Chirac.

From the start of the game it was Bordeaux who looked the most dangerous with ball in hand; they attacked Montpellier at every opportunity and often gained many mts. as the ball was quickly and efficiently moved from left to right by a team who were oozing with confidence. Montpellier did manage the first score from the boot of Aaron Cruden to take a slender lead 3-0. The first 30minutes Bordeaux played some very good running rugby and Montpellier were often on the back foot having to defend far too much, as they were the home team and it should have been the other way round. Montpellier did have 2 tries disallowed the first by Gaby Ngandebe and the second Jimmy Nagusa, both after video footage looked as the decisions were correct, simple errors made on the try line did not help Montpellier’s situation. Bordeaux then crossed the line for the first try of the game after some excellent work from the three quarters, it was back row Tauleigne who got his name on the score board, Jalibert added the extras and Bordeaux were in front 3-7. Just before halftime Aaron Cruden reduced the score with another penalty and the teams went to the break 6-7 and everything to play for. No doubt Coach Xavier Garbajosa would have something to say during the pause as this was by no means an acceptable performance from the hosts, line outs lost and some very sloppy passing and handling, and far too many individual choices from players who had bucketsful’s of experience.

The second half got underway and whatever Coach Garbajosa said at half time seemed to be forgotten, Montpellier still were playing a game of little pace and bad choices. They did get a penalty on the half way line which Benoit Paillaugue knocked over to retake the lead 9-7. Bordeaux had a try disallowed, but the replacement for Tauleigne the first try scorer, Higginbotham went over for Bordeaux, the extras were added by former Montpellier fly half Ben Botica 9-14with around 17mins left to play. Finally Montpellier went over into the hallowed ground and it was Martin Devergie who was the scorer, this came after some good rolling mauls from line outs, Anthony Bouthier missed the conversion 14-14. Minutes later Anthony Bouthier did knock over a penalty to give Montpellier a very slender lead 17-14 but this was quickly reversed by Botica who again drew the teams level on 17 apiece. There was no further scoring and the ref finally blew for full time with the scores level at 17-17, disappointment for all concerned as this was a performance far below expectations from Montpellier. The scrum was by far the only positive element in today’s game, the lineout’s were disastrous at times and some of the passing and receiving of the ball were of a standard of some junior rugby schools, but until Montpellier start playing as a team and that’s 15 plus the bench together as a unit and not 15 individuals progress will not be made. The next few weeks are going to be the proof in the pudding as Montpellier goes to Clermont, then Bayonne, and host Toulouse on the 19th Oct. Three very delicate and difficult games which could well decide the rest of the season for Montpellier, they need to regain the points lost against Bordeaux as quickly as possible.

This week at training there will be hard work on the agenda and no doubt silence on the training pitch as all present know well they have the wrath of Coach Xavier Garbajosa looking very closely at every individual. The team needs to sort themselves out and starting playing as everyone knows they can, cut out some of this personnel performances and get into the routine of 15 man rugby.

Steve Whittell.