Montpellier pruned and hungout to dry...

Le 16 septembre 2019

The beginning of the season the sports journo’s and pundits will all tell you who will be in the Top 6 and who will be fighting for relegation at the end of every Top 14. There would be no surprises if Agen was mentioned on numerous occasions in the latter, they survived last season by the skin of their teeth and this season who knows that will unfold as the season continues. Montpellier seem to have their fair share of Sunday fixtures this season, and this was the first of the season. A difficult match away from home at Agen, a team always in contention when playing at home, today will be no different. Montpellier is currently lying 4th and a win away from home will gain them one place into 3rd in the Championship. A pleasantsSunday lunchtime greeted the players, little wind and plenty of sunshine. The match was to include 2 water breaks after 20 mins in each half because of the very warm weather which is hitting the South of France at the moment.

The match started and it was Agen who dominated. Their aggression and ability to play good fast running rugby had Montpellier on the back foot from the start, and the very rare times that Montpellier got hand on ball the forward passes and knock ons were far too often to keep Coach Xavier Garbajosa a happy bunny. First on the scoreboard was Agen with a couple of Lagarde penalties, an ex Montpellier player of years gone by who is still plying his trade in the TOP 14. This was quickly followed by a try from Agen after a run around by the scrumhalf the ball came out through the three quarters and Saurs went over with ease. The extras were missed but that gave Agen a good lead 11-0.

All the play was coming from Agen and Montpellier were often defending in their own 22mts line. However they did get a break, from a clearance kick Antony Bouthier attacked and Gabby Ngandebe set off at his usual lighting pace, he served Yvon Reilhac who did the rest. Aaron Cruden added the extras and Montpellier were back in the game 11-7. This was the only highlight of Montpellier’s first half; they seemed to have left their usual aggression and excellent forward play behind in Montpellier. Lagarde added another penalty on the stroke of half time, the Ref finally blew for the break and the teams left the park with all to play for in the second half but Montpellier would need to pull up their socks if they were going to get anything from this game, score at half time 14-7 to the hosts.

The second half got underway and Montpellier had a fine effort disallowed. Bouthier tried to squeeze into the corner but just grazed the touch line, but still a fine effort from this player who was shoulders above the rest of the team. Cruden reduced the score with a penalty to get Montpellier within 4pts 14-10. What happened for the rest of the half was Agen picking up the tempo and Montpellier being hit from all corners of the park, the mistakes, penalties conceded, scrums and mauls loosing all agressivity. This made it easy pickings for Agen who added a couple of tries through, Lagarde and Masilevu but it was far too easy for Agen, it could have been more but they were disallowed one try for a forward pass, and one or two elementary mistakes denied them of a possible attacking bonus point.

When the ref finally blew for full time the score 29-10 and a fully deserved victory for Agen who outshone Montpellier with comparative ease. Some will say the players missing for this years World Cup in Japan is one reason but that is the reason why there is a squad of players and not just 23, when called up to replace the absentees they have to step up to the mark and perform, today that was not the case and all present at Agen may have to take a long and hard look at themselves in that mirror which does not always give you the answers needed. A game which needs to remembered for its faults which should not be repeated, and the discipline once again Montpellier’s downfall. But it was much more than that, Coach Xavier Garbajosa will certainly being showing his discontentment over this very laxed display from his troops and they may suffer over the next 10 days before the next match v Bordeaux. The next game is at home to Bordeaux Begles Sunday 29th Sept ko 12.30 who are flying on top of this season’s Championship, unbeaten in their first 4 games and will be coming to Montpellier looking for all the points, they passed over 50pts v Stade Francais this weekend, and are looking red hot.

Montpellier need to get back to the drawing board, refind that aggression and play as a 15 man team, or there will be more problems on the horizon.

Steve Whittell.


*Agen is the capitol of France’s dry prune industry.