Le 07 janvier 2019

The visitors were Lyon, a team with massive ambitions for the last couple of seasons, but this season they are making a determined effort to be amongst the Top 6 for the second consecutive year, they play fast aggressive rugby and will test Montpellier on all fronts on this cold January afternoon. Montpellier fielded almost the same team as last week when they defeated Pau with the attacking bonus point, just Guillamon coming in for the injured Chilachava. The crowd was a very poor 8,000 for a cold but sunny winter’s afternoon. Lyon had their General on the touchline, the very verbal Coach Pierre Mignoni who keeps pushing his team forward with excellent words of motivation.

The first on the score board was Lyon a penalty from their No 10 Wisniewski 0-3, after some good attacking Lyon got themselves in a good position and the very same No10 slotted a nice drop goal from 30mts out increasing their lead to 0-6. Montpellier were throwing the ball about, but too many offloads were missing the hands and either rolling into touch or giving Lyon some easy ball to attack with, when the ball did come through the three quarters there was not enough pace, and Lyon defended with not a great deal of problems, the attacks fizzled out to not much, and far too many times passes going astray, or the inevitable knock- ons which occurred far too often giving Lyon all the ball they needed. The rucks and mauls were dominated by Lyon showing far more guile and aggression than the Montpellier forwards. In the 22min. Montpellier finally got a good attack moving forward, first Paillaugue then a good break from Capt Fulgence, who off loaded to Jan Serfontain to go over, Benoit Paillaugue added the extras 7-6 to the hosts.  Wisniewski added a penalty for Lyon to retake the lead, after another indiscretion by Montpellier who seemed to be permanently on the back foot defending, Lyon did say pre match they were coming here looking for some very important points, their spokesman Mika Ivaldi the ex Montpellier hooker who was relishing this encounter. Just before half time Lyon’s fullback Arnold kicked a ball forward, followed up and as it nearly went over the touchline he dived and somehow palmed it back for Wulf to have the easiest try of his career, Wisniewski added the all important extras and Lyon went to the half time 7-16 to the good. Surely words will have been said at half time as Coach Vern Cotter did not look the best pleased man in the Stadium, hopefully they will be registered and the boys will come out fighting.

The second half got under way and it was not long before Wisniewski knocked over another penalty to push their lead to 7-19, this was not looking good for Montpellier and something had to be done soon. After some good possession and moving towards the Lyon try line, a penalty was given, the ball was kicked into touch 15mts. out, the ball was gathered and after several mauls and pick and go’s Nadolo somehow passed the ball to Ruffenach who dived over in the corner, an excellent kick from Benoit Paillaugue from the touch line got Montpellier back in the game at 14-19 and all to play for. With only 5 points the difference Montpellier should have gone for the kill but instead they went for the more festive spirit and gave away another couple of penalties which of course Mr 100% marksman Wisniewski obliged, 14-25 to Lyon. Montpellier tried to get down to the Lyon try line but errors and passes going astray kept them out, finally the ref blew for full time, another home defeat for Montpellier that’s the 4th this season, far too many, as last season they were undefeated at home. You could see the agony on the faces of the Montpellier players, but they only have themselves to blame, Spirit, aggression, and some blood and guts were all AWOL, a performance which was probably one of the worst I have seen for many a season, things will have to change but I am sure as early as Mon.morning it will, attitudes need to be focused on the job in hand this is no walk in the park and everybody concerned needs to realise this with the upmost importance if Montpellier are going to qualify for the end of seasons playoffs which could be one of the most difficult tasks they have had for many a season.

The next 2 weeks we are back to Euro Champions Cup with a match at home to Newcastle Falcons and then away to Edinburgh the following week, mind you they will need to pull their socks if they want to win and qualify for the knock out stages, as their performance today was wanting to the very extremes.

Steve Whittell.