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More misery in Paris

Le 27 novembre 2017

Paris is never the happiest of hunting grounds for Montpellier, rare are the return journeys with 4 or 5 points in the pocket. This being the very last Top 14 played at the Racing ground Colombes before their move to their state of the art stadium in La Défense, The "U Arena” which is in the financial capital of Paris, invitations were abundant for past and present players, officials, for one of the oldest clubs in French rugby who have shared their Stadium with Olympics and other such grandiose events. This final game was packed with memories and a certain nostalgia.

Montpellier had a last minute change with an injury to Paul Willemse, Julien Delannoy stepping in to replace, and his spot on the bench was given to Joffrey Michel who certainly would not be a 2nd. row replacement. The game was played in good conditions with little wind, sunshine, although it was very cold in Paris this Sunday lunchtime. The game started and it was all very one sided with Racing controlling everything and Montpellier looking very naive in their executions.

Both Pat Lambie and Benoit Paillaugue missed penalties before Lambie was the first to convert, to give Racing a slender 3-0 lead. The spectators had to wait 30 minutess before the first try, and it was former medial joker Albert Vulivuli for Montpellier who crashed over from 5mts out after good work at close quarters from his pack, Lambie converted and 10-0 to Racing. Things were not going Montpellier’s way, dropped passes,  missed tackles, touch kicks going out on the full, a scrum being pushed off the ball  and some wayward line outs, all this contributed to Montpellier having practically no ball to attack with. And when they did passes were being given to the opposition rather than their own players, there seemed to be an air of what are we doing here when we should be in front of a nice warm fire drinking our tea and sampling some nice chocolate biscuits, another description could have been AWOL. Pat Lambie added another penalty before half time pushing the Racing score to 13-0 before the players went to the break probably for some harsh words from their staff.

The second half started and Racing were again off the their marks with speed and agility, Dulin going over in the corner, this time Lambie missed the conversion 18-0 but this was all Racing and very little contribution by Montpellier: They were playing 2nd fiddle to a superior Racing team. Another penalty by Lambie advanced the score to 21-0 and Montpellier was floundering under the Racing onslaught, another try and Racing would have the bonus point.

In the 63rd minute, Montpellier had their first real moment of possession, when it looked like they might score the pass was given to Rokocoko who kicked down the touch line Imhoff accelerated and left all in his wake the 80 meters dash was won without contest and he went over in the corner, the final nail in the Montpellier coffin was firmly in place, again Lambie missed the conversion but Racing had a 26-0 lead and the attacking bonus point, disaster with a “Capital D”. The match continued with little spark or energy from Montpellier and finally the ref blew for full time with Montpellier feeling the pain of a Fanny (zero points scored), this was the first zero points match of this season’s TOP 14, 77 matches in all and Montpellier hold the not so magnificent title of the only team not scoring in a match. “Enough Said”.

Learn from the mistakes and move on, the only little bit of pleasure this week could well be the Gala Dinner organised by the Fonds de Dotation. The players may be allowed to converse that tuesday evening but the rest of the week could be keep your head down in silence, listen, and work bloody hard, or the wrath of coach Vern Cotter may be on you ! 

Steve Whittell