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Top 14 semi-finals: Castres and Montpellier prevail in the heat of Nice

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Top 14 semi-finals: Castres and Montpellier prevail in the heat of Nice Empty Top 14 semi-finals: Castres and Montpellier prevail in the heat of Nice

Post by sensisball Sun 19 Jun 2022, 10:58 am

On Friday night, Toulouse took on Castres Olympique in a titanic battle in the cauldron of a 33-degree heat in the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice. With only 1.5 minutes on the clock Toulouse scored a phenomenal team try finished off by the young winger, Mattis Lebel. Ramos slotted the conversion to make it 7-0.
However, the men from the Tarn didn’t panic and worked their way back into the game. Nakosi was denied a try because of a forward pass on 8 minutes. Antoine Dupont was smashed back in a tackle after 11 minutes and Ntamack went for an unsuccessful drop goal, perhaps a nod to the strength of the Castres defense. Toulouse won a scrum penalty on 15 minutes and Ramos calmly slotted the kick to make it 0-10.

Finally, after 19 minutes Castres won a penalty on the ground and Benjamin Urdapilleta kicked from distance to make it 3-10. After the water break the men from the Tarn started to edge the collisions. Rory Arnold saw yellow for a high tackle on Nakosi and Castres took advantage of their numerical superiority with the fly half slotting another penalty on 26 minutes to make it 6 -10. The Uruguayan scrum half Arata was beginning to eclipse the great Antoine Dupont and went on to have a fantastic match.  On 30 mins Castres smashed Toulouse’s 7-man scrum and kicked for a lineout in the opposition 22. Castres carried through several phases but eventually coughed up a penalty after the last carry. Toulouse set up wave after wave of attack, but the Castres defense held firm and Arata cleared their lines.

On 36 mins Castres managed their first fluent attack almost leading to a try but desperate defense, leading to a yellow card for Marchand, kept the rouge et noire’s line intact. Castres declined the kick and went for the try instead. Sadly, what looked like a magnificent score by Palis was denied on the TMO review for a lack of sufficient downward pressure. However, a secondary penalty for offside in front of the sticks was an easy 3 points for Urdapilleta. Half time score 9-10 with Castres belief growing with every play.

At the start of the second half Tolofua was subbed off to allow Mauvaka to join a scrum in the Toulouse 22.Castres won the scrum and attacked the Toulouse line. After several phases Arata managed to sneak past the ruck defenders and stick out his arm to dot down on the line. Urdapilleta kicked the conversion to take the lead 16-10.
The men in red and black were making unforced errors but managed to compose themselves and Ntamack finished some lovely team play with a try after 46 mins. Ramos missed the conversion, so the score was 16-15. The Castres hooker, Gaitan Barlot smashed his former teammate Anthony Jelonch , in a massive tackle, an indication of the physicality of this encounter for the whole game

At the end of the third quarter Ramos slotted a straight-forward penalty to take back the lead, 16-18. On 63 mins Lebel was tackled into touch by Dumora to deny an almost certain try. Dupont kicked the ball dead shortly after  to relieve the pressure on the Castres line. Toulouse conceded a free kick at the subsequent scrum, for early engagement,  and Castres attacked. This pressure caused Ramos to make a mistake with his clearing kick clipping the line before going out, leading to a Castres lineout in the Toulouse 22. With the lineout won the Castres forwards carried, and Toulouse conceded another penalty which Urdapilleta calmly slotted to take back the lead 19-18.

On 72 mins Chilachava, the Georgian loosehead conceded a penalty, coming off his feet at a ruck. Ramos missed a long attempt, so the score stayed 19-18. Toulouse attacked with growing desperation, but stout Castres defense denied them. Babillot, the Castres captain, made a crucial turnover on 75 mins allowed Castres to clear down to the Toulouse 22. After winning their lineout and going through several phases Urdapilleta sent a beautiful grubber kick through for left winger Nakosi to chase, catch and offload to Dumora for a wonderful try. The conversion was missed so the score stayed at 24-18.
Toulouse managed one final attack after the restart but could not make a dent in the magnificent Castres defense. An outstanding victory for the men from the Tarn.

On Saturday evening, with the temperature down to a chilly 29 degrees, Montpellier came out on top in edgy and error filled game. Lucu put UBB ahead, for the only time in the match, with an early penalty, but Montpellier went ahead, after 5 minutes, with a great team try scored in the left corner by Vincent Rattez. Jan Serfontein and Zac Mercer were to the fore for the build-up, as they were for the whole game.

Benoit Paillaugue, the straw, was successful with a tricky conversion to take a 7 -3 lead. After some more good work from the forwards Garbisi struck a good drop goal to make it 10-3.

UBB struck back almost immediately with a poachers try scored by Jalibert. It was great work initially from  Montpelier with a lineout steal just inside their 22,  followed by a rampaging run by the evergreen  Guillaume Guirado. Unfortunately, the former French captain coughed up the ball in a huge tackle and Jalibert chipped the loose ball ahead to dot down under the posts. The conversion made it 10 -10.

Paillaugue missed a penalty attempt at 36 minutes but neither side managed to find any fluency in their attacking play during the second quarter. However, with the clock in the red, the Montpellier full-back Anthony Bouthier struck an outstanding drop goal from just inside the Bordeaux half to take a 13-10 halftime lead.

In the second half the errors continued and both teams found it hard to get the upper hand. However, UBB conceded more kickable penalties and the straw put over another 2 penalties to take the game 19-10. In the final quarter Bordeaux were almost out on their feet, the effects of the barrage round and the heat were too much to overcome a stubborn and defensively outstanding Montpellier.

Without the power of Paul Willemse and the leadership of their talismanic openside Fou Fou Ouedraogo, can Montpellier overcome the power of Castres pack, the control of Arata and Benjamin Urdapilleta and the collective will to win of the men from the Tarn?

We will find out next Friday night in Paris.


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