David Barnes re­ports on the open­ing weekend of the Top 14

The Rugby Paper - - News - DAVID BARNES

“Cru­den was be­hind most of the men­ace that helped Mont­pel­lier beat Agen, or­ches­trat­ing per­fectly through boot and hand a team happy to hand him the role of mae­stro”

Mont­pel­lier, un­der the new con­trol of former Cler­mont and Scot­land boss Vern Cot­ter, are gen­er­ally con­sid­ered to be the new hot­shots of the Top 14.

And, al­though their op­po­nents yes­ter­day were pro­moted Agen, they did noth­ing to dam­age their im­age as se­ri­ous con­tenders.

Es­pe­cially as, among the ex­pen­sive re­cruits as­sem­bled by am­bi­tious pres­i­dent Mo­hed Al­trad, ap­peared new fly-half Aaron Cru­den, still around the peak of his All Black pow­ers.

Cru­den was be­hind most of the men­ace that helped Mont­pel­lier beat Agen 48-19, or­ches­trat­ing per­fectly through boot and hand a team happy to hand him the role of mae­stro.

It took him only ten min­utes to be­wil­der Agen with an un­ex­pected cross-kick that al­lowed gi­ant Fi­jian winger Ne­mani Nadolo to plun­der the open­ing try from 40 me­tres.

Cru­den was then in­stru­men­tal in creat­ing the sec­ond first-half try for Aussie winger Joe To­mane with a quickly-taken penalty. The flood­gates were open.

Agen, whose sur­vival chances are in­creased by a Top 14 de­ci­sion to rel­e­gate the bot­tom club only while giv­ing the sec­ond bot­tom a play-off against the loser of the Divi­sion Two fi­nal, could scarcely have had a more for­mi­da­ble bap­tism.

In the end, they con­ceded seven tries, the oth­ers com­ing at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals from full-back Ben­jamin Fall, No.8 Martin Dev­ergie, cen­tre Alexan­dre Du­moulin, sub hooker Ro­main Ruf­fe­nach and South African flanker Wi­aan Lieben­berg.

Agen, for their part, reg­is­tered tries, one in the first half and two in the sec­ond, from Ar­gen­tine hooker Fa­cundo Bosch, cen­tre Julien Heriteau and, bang on the whis­tle from Ge­or­gian Ta­maz Mchedlidze, a sub cen­tre.

Lyon were linked in this col­umn last week by Cler­mont cham­pion Nick Aben­danon to Mont­pel­lier as the ma­jor threats to his ti­tle.

And, much strength­ened by sign­ings, they con­firmed his fore­cast with a 25-16 win at Stade Fran­cais af­ter a promis­ing se­ries of pre-sea­son friendlies.

Stade de­cided to start with Fi­jian cen­tre Waisea Nay­a­calevu af­ter sacking his com­pa­triot Josiah Raisuqe, who faces trial on vi­o­lence charges.

Waisea helped them to a 13-0 lead with an early try to give new boss Greg Cooper some hope of a suc­cess­ful takeover from Ar­gen­tine Gon­zalo Queseda.

Lyon, though, un­der the much­praised con­trol of Pierre Mignoni, showed why they could pro­vide the same im­pact as lit­tle-fan­cied La Rochelle last sea­son.

Cen­tre Thibaud Re­gard and winger Alexis Palis­son pro­vided first-half tries be­fore sub South African lock Al­ber­tus Buckle en­sured the win.

Rac­ing went ahead of Parisian ri­vals Stade with a pul­sat­ing 25-21 win over Cas­tres, who must still be won­der­ing how it hap­pened.

De­spite miss­ing three kicks for goal early, Cas­tres were still ahead 18-3 with Rac­ing boss Lau­rent Travers fum­ing on the touch­line. Two tries from winger Ar­mand Bat­tle, their new sign­ing from Greno­ble had them in a dom­i­nant po­si­tion.

Rac­ing, how­ever, who re­duced the gap by the break with a try from Kiwi winger An­thony Tuitavaka, hit back with more from Ar­gen­tine flier Juan Imhoff and, three min­utes from time, full-back Louis Dupi­chot.

Ch­es­lin Kolbe has the elec­tri­fy­ing pace to have won a bronze medal for South Africa in the last Olympic Sevens tour­na­ment.

He has wasted no time, ei­ther, in mak­ing a speedy im­pact on the Top 14 by scor­ing one try and mak­ing an­other on his de­but for Toulouse.

A 23-23 draw on the syn­thetic turf of pro­moted Oy­on­nax may seem no big deal, but it rep­re­sents an en­cour­ag­ing start for a team who fin­ished last sea­son in cri­sis one place above rel­e­ga­tion.

Es­pe­cially as they were with­out seven French in­ter­na­tion­als kept on the side­lines by a pro­tec­tive Fed­er­a­tion. Kolbe, late of Storm­ers, looks des­tined for a prom­i­nent role in the de­sired ressur­rec­tion. He dashed 60 me­tres to al­low young full-back Thomas Ramos to set up scrum-half Se­bastien Bezy for their first try.

He was on hand, too, just four min­utes from time to touch down for a de­served share of the points.

Ramos, top Divi­sion Two scorer while on loan to Colomiers last sea­son, is sure to be of value, too. He kicked 13 points, as did Ben Bot­ica, who also scored one of Oy­on­nax’s two tries.

Kiwi Bot­ica, once of Har­lequins, joined Oy­on­nax in Jan­uary as a med­i­cal re­place­ment from Mont­pel­lier.

His try gave his team a one-point lead. Cap­tain Valentin Ursche, their Ru­ma­nian lock, had given Oy­on­nax a sim­i­lar lead at the break to con­firm his re­cov­ery from a back op­er­a­tion.

But the com­bi­na­tion of Kolbe and Ramos, whose nerve held with a con­ver­sion from the touch­line, se­cured the draw.

La Rochelle served no­tice that they would once again be danger­ous con­tenders with a 19-10 vic­tory at Brive, a usu­ally for­mi­da­ble out­fit at home.

Class act: Aaron Cru­den mas­ter­minded Mont­pel­lier’s vic­tory

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.