On the basis of you don’t ask you don’t get, I responded to the EPCR email asking for those seeking media accreditation in the positive. I was more than pleased when it was confirmed that I had access for both finals; although with my team playing in the Champions Cup Final I’d decided to be a fan for that one.
Getting to the stadium was smooth, finding the entrance for the media not so. Thank goodness one of the security guys took pity on me and took me, I’d never have found it on my own. I was greeted by a very friendly bi-lingual young lady, Laura I think and then by another of her colleagues, but until I went to my seat that was where the friendly stopped.
As far as the English media/press go they seem to stick to the people they know and don’t as much as offer a smile to those they don’t which is a shame. I was however very lucky to sit next to a gentleman called Eugene Ryan he more than made up for the solitude. As a big added bonus he was also the Citing Commissioner for the match, it was intriguing to hear about how he went about his ‘job’.
Harlequins and Montpellier had met in the early rounds of the Challenge Cup with the honours being even with a home win each time and a similar scoreline.
- 12/11/2015 Harlequins 51 – Montpellier 18
- 22/01/2016 Montpellier 42 – Harlequins 9
The make up of the 2 teams couldn’t have been more different with Harlequins featuring 16 English players in their 23, Montpellier on the other hand had only 7 Frenchmen, they were outnumbered by 8 South Africans and a mix of players from other nations making up the rest. With 5 South Africans including brothers Bismarck and Jannie Du Plessis starting in the pack.
It had been a very difficult week for the Harlequins players with the news of the death of their young Prop Seb Adeniran-Olule in a road accident. At only 20 years old Seb had a bright future in front of him having represented England at U16, U18 and U20, and had made his debut for the London side. An impeccably observed minutes silence was held before the game kicked off.
The emotion will also have been raised as this would be Connor O’Shea’s final game in charge at Quins before he headed off to his new role as Head Coach in Italy.
Things didn’t quite gel for Quins and an early sign was from the kick off, when 2 players went for the same ball. The first scrum saw a penalty awarded the way of Quins however and Nick Evans stepped up to whistles and boo’s – no problem for a man of his stature however, he scored the 3 points.
A clever kick through by the Montpellier Scrum Half Nic White, saw Marland Yarde touch the ball down behind the line. The 2nd scrum saw the 2nd penalty, this time the way of Montpellier and Demetri Catrakilis kicked the first of 4 penalties. Catrakilis was immaculate with the boot and made the most of the penalties awarded to his team.
Nick Evans had another chance after Timoci Nagusa went flying over the top of the ruck, John Lacey had a few words with both captains, Danny Care and Fulgence Ouedraogo after a few handbags were thrown. The kick hit the post and Quins were caught offside as the ball rebounded allowing Montpellier to clear their lines.
Mike Brown made 2 uncharacteristic errors in a short space of time gifting Montpellier possession. We were in something of a forwards focused game and it was the big 2nd rower Paul Willemse who made a great break for Montpellier, replacement Fullback Jesse Mogg found himself in a lot of space, running in to score. The kick was a hard one, yet effortless for Catrakilis.
The score moved to Quins 9 Montpellier 13 at half time after an exchange of penalties. Im to sure that was a true indication of the match, Montpellier were firmly in control.
Harlequins seemed to come out with renewed desire after half time, but it was Montpellier who scored through Mogg again, the try came after a wave of attacks on the Quins line followed by a neat kick for Mogg, the conversion was again good.
The errors came back for Quins and another 2 penalties were awarded and converted, they looked down and out at Quins 9 Montpellier 26. However, they weren’t ready to give, Mike Brown kicked across the line and Marland Yarde leapt over the top of defending Montpellier defenders to score. The conversion closed the gap to 10. A penalty in front of the posts for Quins, duly converted by Ben Botica saw the gap narrowed to a converted try.
Looking back at my notes, I typed – I’ll be very disappointed if as many people are disconnected from the rugby tomorrow! The noise made when Quins were kicking, the band playing, the attempt at a Mexican Wave in a top European Final were all very disappointing.
The game finished on a somewhat strange note as with Quins seeing a try to tie the scores Ben Botica decided to boot the ball up the field, straight to Mogg who kicked the ball out to finish the game. Both the Quins fans and players were flummoxed, in a state of disbelief, it wasn’t the first time Botica had suffered from brain freeze at a vital time this season, he failed to make touch with a penalty when Quins were beating Northampton Saints, Ben Foden ran the ball back, scoring the wining try!
Many headlines and Twitter rants focused on Botica’s error, but the game had been lost long before the crazy kick.
The final score was Harlequins 19 Montpellier 26 and the ‘French’ team had the first of what could be many trophies in their cabinet. It has to be asked at what cost to French rugby?