Well I thought last week was good, but this is something else. Before the Ospreys game a few weeks ago, it’s safe to say that very few fans were expecting any other than to get thrashed by Montpellier. However, it’s proof that a few good performances before a confidence boosting win can work wonders for a team.
Even coming off the back of an impressive victory over Connacht the week before, I still wasn’t entirely confident of a win, I think I’d have taken a losing bonus point if offered. In fact, I had come round to the idea of going out of the Challenge Cup at the pool stage to help us concentrate on the league. That thought seemed even more inevitable when Dan Fish was spotted struggling in the warm up, and sure enough Jarrod Evans came out wearing number 10, with Rhys Patchell reverting to full-back.
A win at last! Cardiff 20-16 Connacht: https://cardiffbluesblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/cardiff-20-16-connacht/
The move though was taken in his stride by the soon to be out of contract back, as after just 43 seconds he collected his own chip over the top and touched down, following a brilliant break on the kick-off return from Tom James. Patchell notched the conversion, and the early lead could’ve been added to soon after if Cuthbert had been able to collect a difficult pass for an easy run-in.
Unfortunately the fast start kind of shocked Montpellier into life, and soon they were right back in the game. Three quick-fire tries from first Jamie Mackintosh, Timoci Nagusa and then Julien Malzieu. There was a hint of obstruction on Rhys Patchell in the second try, but a largely poor referee and no TMO were no help. A Benoit Paillaugue penalty made up for missing two of the three conversions, and in 18 minutes, it was 7-20.
The game died for the final 20 minutes of the first half, until in extra time when the returning (at last!) Josh Navidi was rumbled over the line at the back of a maul. A crucial try, and conversion from Patchell, made it 14-20 and Cardiff went in at half-time within touching distance.
After tweeting my displeasure at the refereeing during half-time, I was pleasantly surprised to see Mr Fitzgibbon finally take control at the start of the second half. Bismarck Du Plessis was sin-binned and a big moment in the game was brewing. It came from the resulting kick into the corner as the pack caused havoc again, and captain for the night Lloyd Williams benefitted. A missed conversion left us a point down as Cardiff continued to press, especially with Tom James, and soon Robins Tchale-Watchou followed Du Plessis into the bin, but with a little nod to the early season poor form, couldn’t make the two-man advantage count.
Did it matter though? Not a bit! With an hour on the clock, the game swung in Cardiff’s favour again. Montpellier had good field position on the attack and were swinging the ball out wide. In his own style, Alex Cuthbert comes flying out of the defence, mistime it and the French side are away down the line, but pull off the interception and he’s in. Let’s just say, a 65-metre run later there was a massive confidence booster for Cuthy.
Bonus point claimed and it was party time at CAP. Patchell recovered his kicking boots for a penalty, before Lloyd started showing off by just wandering through the away defence. He was stopped a few metres out, but a quick recycle through the hands of that man James found Navidi for the simplest of run-ins to cap his return.
Charles Geli tried to lower the level of the party with a late try from a forwards shove for Montpellier’s fourth try, and Demetri Catrakills’ conversion would’ve given them a second losing point. However, Rhys Patchell has the last say, with his 17th point of the night making it 37-27 at full-time.
A four point advantage in the table and crucial points scored difference made for excellent reading, but it was nothing compared to the pleasure of a fantastic team performance. Could name the whole side, but I’d like to pick out Jarrad Hoeata, Lloyd Williams and Rhys Patchell in particular. It’s also impossible to under-estimate the influence that a natural openside in Josh Navidi can bring. Finally, it was pleasing to see Alex Cuthbert’s effort pay off with a well-taken try.
Danny Wilson and Graham Steadman’s efforts are really beginning to pay-off as we approach Christmas, and both’s comments to the media continue to build the confidence we as supporters have in them. Something special really seems to be building, and with a squad like this to beat Montpellier, it is so exciting to see what they may be able to do after bringing in a few players and properly moulding the squad. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves though, the return game in France on Thursday will be the biggest test so far, let’s just see the effort staying at 100% and the confidence growing. Come on Cardiff!!