Le 25 mars 2019

The 6 Nations now over and we are back to the TOP 14, just 7 games left to obtain one of those 6 qualifying places. This week Montpellier are again playing away from home, the venue is Pau, but after victories against Bordeaux with the bonus point, and a first ever victory in Toulon last week Montpellier wanted to prove they are far from dead and buried. There is still a very good chance of a TOP 6 qualification, but this good run has to continue until the end of the season with hardly any defeats and lots of victories.

The weather was perfect for fast running rugby, hot, sunny, with little wind the game got under way with the young Darmon kicking off for Montpellier, the first on the scoreboard were Pau after defending on there own 22 meters line, they moved the ball up the park with Armitage and Mowen, the ball finally came to Fumat who went over the try line unopposed, the extras were added by Colin Slade 7-0 to Pau.

Montpellier kept their heads up and continued to play good rugby and out of nowhere Jaques Du Plessis got hold of the pigskin and off he went, they tried  to stop him but Thor smashed his way through defenders to go over for an excellent try, the extras were added by La Paille and all was back to even 7-7. Montpellier were on the front foot going forward and the pack started to give the opposition something to think about, they were more aggressive and played as a solid unit winning the battle upfront, this could well pay  dividends later on when the Pau front five started to tire.

After excellent pressure Montpellier scored again, this time it was the flying Fijian Jimmy Nagusa after more good work from the forwards the ball flew out to his wing and again the opposition could not cope with this fast ball and Jimmy scored an easy run in, again La Paille added the extras but this time an excellent kick from the touchline, 7-14 and Montpellier had their noses in front for the first time in the game. Jimmy Nagusa nearly scored again but the ball was robbed from him meters from the Pau try line after an 80meters dash, but Montpellier could sense they were on top of this encounter and went for the throat, they started a maul on the Pau 22meters line an slowly but surely they trundled forward gaining mts. every second, finally they crashed over and it was Fulgence Ouedraogo who came up with the ball, again La Paille added the extras, the score moved on to 21-7 for Montpellier. Pau did react to this Montpellier domination and after getting near to the Montpellier line, Colin Slade served Votu who went over after the half time hooter had been sounded, Slade missed the conversion and the referee blew for the break with the score Pau 12 Montpellier 21.

The second  half got under way but for reasons unknown the pace of the game slowed down and the mistakes became more abundant, but there were a couple of big decisions by the referee,  first a no arms but heavy shoulder charge tackle on the face of Darmon by Presenti, the player left hurt on the deck. The referee turned to the video and rightly decided that this was red, the young player got his marching orders and Pau was down to 14 for the rest of the game. Minutes later the same happened again this time it was Nemsie Nadolo who high tackled the smallest player on the park Steffon Armitage, it was a David against Goliath affair which probably deserved a yellow card but the referee decided that it was red so both teams were down to 14 a piece. This could mean a suspension for Nadolo for a couple of games which will not help the team in their march forward.

Apart from a penalty apiece to move the scores onto 15-24, there were a few misses, but the game became very scrappy towards the end but Montpellier defended well when they had to and kept their lines clean. Finally the referee blew for the end of the game and Montpellier was worthy winners 15-24. The forwards deserved plenty of praise, the return of our Internationals obviously helped but everyone did their jobs well, the backs played solid and defending well when they had to and the first half they really turned the heat on the Pau XV. It is still a very difficult task to qualify for the Top 6 play-offs but not impossible, more matches like this one where the team were solid and aggressive may just give them that edge they need to scramble back up the table to be in those great end of seasons games.

Next week there are no games as the quarter finals of the European Cups take place and as we well know Montpellier are not invited this year, but maybe that is a blessing in disguise as they have 2 weeks to prepare for Agen the 6th of April 18.00 kick off to continue their march forward.

Steve Whittell.