Montpellier achieve the ‘impossible’
Sun, 20 Jan 2013 11:01
I feel like Eric is still here with us
Montpellier head coach Fabien Galthie has hailed his players for reaching the last eight in the European Cup for the first time.
A brilliant 23-3 home win over Toulon made it a third visit to a major tournament's knockout phase in as many years for a team assembled by Galthie and his former forwards coach Eric Bechu.
The Round Six victory turned into a tribute to Bechu, who died earlier in the week after a brave fight against cancer.
"I don't want to add another layer, but this is our - I say 'our' because I feel like Eric is still here with us - third year in Montpellier, and it's the third time we have qualified for a final phase - twice in Top 14 and now in the European Cup," said Galthie.
"We have put Montpellier among the eight best teams in Europe, which might not include Leinster or Munster. That is quite a feeling!
"I have to give credit to my fellow coaches Mario Ledesma and Stephane Glas. It has not an easy situation for them either. I called them to the rescue when things got serious for Eric.
"I told them right away that it wouldn't be easy, but they came to help anyway and did their best for everyone. The players also answered on the field, but what they did belongs to them.
"Everyone needs to realise that a lot of our players were pretty much amateurs when they arrived (Creevy, Fernandez, Bustos) and a lot of others came out of our academy (De Marco, Ouedraogo, Trinh-Duc, Berard). Others then came from smaller teams and some didn't have a club anymore (Tulou, Bias, Combezou, Nagusa).
"All of them are now part of the eight best teams in Europe. I couldn't say at the beginning of the season, 'our goal is to reach the quarterfinals', but the players did what was necessary, and here it is."
Montpellier now face the daunting prospect of travelling to Stade Marcel Michelin in April to face a Clermont team that won all six pool matches, including back-to-back wins over the reigning champions Leinster, and have stretched their unbeaten run at home this season to 53 games.
Toulon have also qualified for the last eight and Toulouse could make it four French teams if they win at Leicester on Sunday. Montpellier qualified as the best of the two pool runners-up with their 22 points and 17 tries and are therefore seeded No.7 in the draw.
Galthie was also full of praise for the way in which his side went about beating the top team in France this season, inflicting on them their first defeat in Europe and only their fourth all season.
"We put them on the backfoot, offensively and defensively. The game was indecisive for a while, but I always felt like we could achieve something we thought impossible," admitted Galthie.
"We played a good, consistent game. We scored two tries against none, and even missed a couple more in the end-zone. At some point we thought we had a shot for the leadership, which was actually quite surprising to see.
"In those conditions our defence did a great job. We put a lot of pressure on Toulon and played very well every time we had the opportunity to move the ball. We scored the first try early in the game and missed another one soon after that."
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