Precision is Montpellier's downfall
After a series of 5 wins on the trot since 2014, and all away from home at Clermont, Montpellier wanted to continue this fine record trying to make in 6 away wins.Both teams had absentees who were in Japan trying to help their Nations causes in the Rugby World Cup, but still both clubs managed to field teams of quality. In front of over 16,000 fans, all was ready for an exciting game between both teams who wanted to climb higher in this seasons TOP 14 Championship.
The game started with a penalty from Benoit Paillaugue in the first 2 mins and gave them an early advantage. Montpellier were throwing the ball about with ease and playing some good rugby but it was not long before the endless and continual mistakes, and bad discipline started to creep into their game. McIntyre took advantage and got Clermont’s scoreboard on the move, 3-3. In the following mins. Montpellier were awarded another penalty and La Paille knocked over his second penalty from close range 3-6. After Abendanon was given his marching orders for 10mins in the bin. This was quickly followed by Paul Willemse given the same card for a shoulder charge leaving both teams with 14 on the park; from the following penalty McIntyre levelled the scores at 6 a piece. This was a game for the purists, hard, fast and no yards given, both teams were playing a trench war game with massive hits coming from all quarters, both defences were on red alert and the attacking rugby was not a major part of this game in fact this would have been a weekly occasion back in the 70’s and 80’s.
The first try of the game went to Clermont, touch was found on the 5mt. line after another penalty. The rolling maul that followed advanced over the try line and the honours went to Tadjer who was also having a ding dong battle with his opposite number the young Giudicelli, The extras were added by McIntyre 6-13 to the hosts. There was no more scoring in the first half but a couple of Paillaugue overhead kicks could well have given Montpellier their first try points, but each time the ball just ran dead before anyone could get their hands on it.The ref finally blew for the break when the 2 hookers decided to have words, probably nothing to do with Halloween or what are you doing this year for Christmas. They both decided handbags was justified, and of course all joined in which made a rather dismal presentation of discipline from both teams. The handbags was quickly stopped by the ref and his assistants and all were dispatched to the changing rooms and told to calm down, score 13-6.
The second half started and for the next 40 mins it was much of the same : combativity, courage and aggressive rugby. Montpellier levelled the scores with a 5mts line out and a rolling maul which sent over Delhommel. The ref was undecided so he went upstairs to the video ref who finally after much thought gave the score to Montpellier, La Paille added the extras 13-13 and all to play for. Just 8 mins. later Clermont went on the attack and after some nifty footwork from Toeava went over leaving the defence very wrong footed.Once again McIntyre added the extras and Clermont had a 7pts lead, 20-13. The attack continued from Montpellier who did everything they could to get back on the scoreboard and at least level the game, but the Clermont defence held strong. Finally the ref blew for fulltime and Montpellier’s excellent record at the Marcel Michelin stadium was gone, and not even the defensive bonus point which they probably deserved.
There were three major issues in this game, 2 line outs lost on the Clermont 5mts line when a rolling maul could have produced tries on both occasions and a break by Gabby Grandee, who was galloping to the try line when the linesman had his flag raised. The ref stopped the game and went to the video, absolutely nothing to be seen, he could have played advantage let the try be scored then go to video, but no he gave Montpellier a scrum which is not quite the same reward. The commitment and courage that Montpellier produced was excellent, the penalty count not good and far too many mistakes, often very basic, cut these out and the results will start to flow. But until then it could be a difficult run to the end of the year. The next 2 weeks, again very difficult games away to Bayonne who are playing out of their skin then Toulouse, TOP 14 Champions visit Montpellier. With this loss Montpellier have dropped 4 places and are 8th in the Championship, not great and this needs to be rectified quickly.