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Le 14 mars 2011


Montpellier decimated by injuries played the return fixture against La Rochelle on Saturday afternoon. The home side was in desperate need of points as they were sitting on a relegation place before the match. To add insult to injury Captain Fulgence Ouedraogo had to withdraw during the teams warm up before the match with a thigh problem, not good news, he was replaced by Alex Tulou, our medical wildcard recently signed from Bourgoin.
In my pre match interview with Geoffrey Doumayrou, I asked the question of his joy playing with his brother for the first time in the TOP 14!! Next time I shall stay silent, he lasted only 5 minutes and had to go off with a dislocated shoulder, if the injuries had stopped there Montpellier would have probably just about coped, but then Raphael Lagarde,  Mickeal De Marco followed direction infirmary, by the end of the first half the Montpellier bench was a fairly lonely place to be.
The match itself was a torrid affair, Montpellier took the lead with a Lagarde drop goal, and then a clever pass with his boot gave Pelo a dive into the hallowed ground for an excellent try which was converted by local boy Benoit Paillaugue from the touch line. Just before half time Marc Giraud received yellow for Montpellier’s continual infringements on their own try line, against 14 La Rochelle scored right on the stroke of half time with a well worked try after excellent work by their forwards, Combezou diving over in the corner, Dambielle converted to add to his earlier penalty and both teams went to the break nearly even La Rochelle 10 Montpellier 13.
At the start of the second half Montpellier had 8 minutes left playing with 14 on the park, the Maritime pack grew in strength and battered our Cysts but they held out for long periods of time with a magnificent effort in defence. Dambielle knocked over a penalty in the 52nd minute then the wall finally creaked in the 60th minute and Tales went over for his try after immense pressure from the front 8 of La Rochelle, converted by Dambielle, La Rochelle went in front 20-13.
The last 10 minutes saw Montpellier camped on the opposition’s line but to no avail, their defence held firm under pressure from the make shift team that Montpellier had left, Paillaugue converted a penalty after La Rochelle had infringed in front of their goal posts leaving just 4 points between the two teams but that infamous defensive bonus point was to be Montpellier’s and this point could well be worth its weight in GOLD!!! The end of the game saw a Montpellier team exhausted but with that very important point in the bag there were a few smiles, congratulations to Captain of the day Benoit Paillaugue, who pushed his forwards to their limits particularly in defence and tried everything in the book to break the defensive wall of La Rochelle. The match was played in a great sporting manner and the 12,000 crowd although partisan were educated and very fair in their applause.
Luckily we have a 2 weeks break before the next match at home to Stade Francais, and just maybe the infirmary will be a little less congested and we will also have all our Internationals back from duty, which in itself is a massive bonus.
Steve Whittell.