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Le 10 décembre 2018

The next two weeks sees European Champions Cup 3rd and 4th round fixtures, away then a home match vs Toulon. Both teams are not having their best seasons so far this new term, Toulon lying in 10th position and Montpellier in 9th just 5pts in front, in the Champions Cup things don’t get any better Toulon played 2 losts and Montpellier won 1 lost 1 not great to say that both teams were talking of ¼ final qualification before the Cup season got under way. The day was perfect for playing fast rugby with a breezing wind behind the backs of Toulon for the first half. The game was started by Luke Pearce the English referee who seemed to think that everyone on the park spoke English so no point trying to string two words of French together.

Toulon got off to the better start with 2 penalties from Belleau 6-0, but as they had nearly all the possession in the first half it was not difficult to understand, Montpellier did defend well but gave away plenty in doing so. They were camped in their own half for much of the first 40 minutes and when they did get the ball it was not at all direct, the attack seemed to have lost its way and the advancing three quarters forgot to advance. Another blow struck for Montpellier when Johan Goosen went over on his ankle and had to be stretchered off, the injury looked fairly serious and he could be out for the next couple of months, and as he has just come back from another injury this situation will not help Montpellier, he was replaced by Ruan Pienaar. The first try of the game came just before half time, after long periods of domination and possession Toulon attacked again down the wing with the ball finally coming to Lakafia, who dived over with Jimmy Nagusa hanging onto his neck, he did save the try being scored but after the referee went to video, he deemed it illegal and awarded Toulon a penalty try, which means no conversion and an automatic 7pts for Toulon plus a yellow card for Jimmy and Montpellier, this gave the hosts a 13-0 lead as the ref blew for half time.

The second half started with Montpellier still down to 14 players on the park, but they did mange a score from the young Henry Immelman, going over in the corner after Pienaar used his class to quickly distribute the ball from the scrum, the extras were added and Montpellier had their first points on the board, 13-7. Belleau added another penalty and then another attack from Toulon Lakafia strolled over with a massive 5 against 2 defence, easy try that Belleau converted the score moving onto 23-7, and lots of daylight between the two teams. This looked like it was beginning to seem like the same old song as Montpellier have yet to record a win at Mayol. In the 56min. Steyn produced a flash of pure brilliance, gathering in his own half he went on a solo run taking the gaps as they came and finishing under the sticks, Pienaar added the extras, 23-14, this player Francois Steyn always puts 100% into everything he does, yes sometimes he makes mistakes but everything is done as a true professional if we had 15 like him nobody would beat Montpellier. Belleau added another penalty then two more tries from Toulon, first Monribot then Nakosi taking Toulon to a very commanding lead of 38-14 with just 4 minutes on the clock left. Come in Jimmy Nagusa, 79 th minute Steyn serves Jimmy and off he goes mystifying the Toulon defence to score under the sticks, Pienaar converts quickly with seconds left to play. Toulon restart and Montpellier gather from the kick off, ball comes out to Jimmy and off he goes, this time the corner post his target and he dives over unopposed, Pienaar adds the extras and Montpellier secure the attacking bonus point losing the game 38-28, yes it’s the same old result at Mayol but the team never gave up trying which is a result in itself. Montpellier have to find a way to keep the ball and use it to their advantage far too many minutes were spent defending and when they did get the ball it was not used to the full potential, so practise makes perfect and that will be the order from Vern Cotter this week.

Next Sunday the return game against the same Toulon, very difficult for either team to qualify but not impossible, the boys will be working hard this week trying to make sure the same mistakes are not made and a victory which could possibly help towards qualification for the quarter finals.

Steve Whittell.