Mont de Marsan v Gloucester Rugby match report and analysis
Mont de Marsan 6 Gloucester Rugby 11
FRACTIOUS fault-lines crack through the mentality of France's most laissez-faire districts.
So the bloodshot, wide-eyed temper merchants of Mont de Marsan hardly need an invitation to explode.
A wretched performance and the increasing inevitability of defeat was plenty enough for Stade Montois to push their spoiling tactics beyond the limits of the decent and acceptable within the confines of this sport.
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Arch professional Andy Hazell hardly ever loses his temper: this is a man who is so focused on his job, he is one of Gloucester's most-renowned health freaks.
The 34-year-old son of Gloucester loves his hometown club so much, he would never jeopardise a Cherry and Whites victory without good reason.
So when he produced a flurry of retaliation punches, ending in a red card, it is fair to say he did so under the most extreme – and unacceptable provocation.
There can be no excuse, and Hazell will be harder than anyone on himself for his censure.
Flanker Matt Cox was handed a yellow card for his part in the resulting 55th-minute fracas, and that could have been avoided.
But where the French were overzealous, fractious and ragged – once again Gloucester were regimented, calm, and aside from that moment of madness, controlled.
It paid off, and despite ten second-half minutes with 13 men and 14 for the last quarter, Gloucester held firm to record a victory against all the odds.
This is parochial France at its most intense.
The locals describe their town proudly as the 'backside of France', and were confidently betting big money on their derriere's finest all week.
The town has an air of menace for the outsider, but the fervent passion has a resonance for the Cherry and Whites.
Stade Montois' ground is named after one of the club's most prominent sons: Guy Boniface and brother Andre were powerful French internationals in the 1960s.
Mont de Marsan's ground boasts Guy's name in homage to the late centre, who died in a car accident in January 1968.
Ascend the hills behind the Adour River, and you will find another dedication to Guy Boniface, and all those injured or worse in or around rugby.
The Chapelle Notre Dame du Rugby was rededicated to 'Our Lady of Rugby' by the Bishop of Dax after the death of three Dax players in 1964.
Neighbours Mont de Marsan pitched in, and now rugby fans and teams the world over make the pilgrimage.
Faultless dedication to the country's true religion then: what a shame some of the murkier tactics did not stand up to that.
Home ferocity, coupled with several missed Gloucester chances, kept Mont de Marsan in the game far longer than they deserved.
Taylor could not convert an early penalty from the off, but Gloucester forged on.
A fine lineout catch and drive elicited tight drives right to the Stade Montois line.
But the home side escaped when Gloucester slipped off their feet at the ruck.
A Sharples clearance flew out on the full, but a quick throw from wing Dubie wasted the Montois chance, and Mike Tindall cut back.
His wide pass to Ian Clark was fairly well-placed, but the sprightly wing could not hold given the greasy conditions after being clean through.
Sharples fielded a Taylor cross-field in the home 22, driving close to the line but Gloucester again failed to find the finish, turned over.
The Kingsholm pack had the edge in the scrum, and won a penalty in the home 22.
But Taylor could not convert, leaving Gloucester in charge but without reward.
Ubiquitous ball-carrier Kalamafoni powered close before Gloucester bludgeoned another catch and drive.
Scott Murray tried to kill the maul, and promptly walked to the sin-bin, suffering for his side's infringements.
Lewis' sniping break almost outfoxed the Mont de Marsan defence: snagged trying to stretch to the line, he cleverly recycled at pace.
And two passes later impish wing Clark was over.
Points on the board from the sixth scoring chance: a collective brow wipe for all men Kingsholm.
The visitors remained robust until the turnaround as well.
The obligatory nervy second-half start ensued, but les Montois could not steal any momentum.
And relentless attacker Kalamafoni and Sharples helped Gloucester back to the front foot.
Kalamafoni again blasted through the line, setting Gloucester away at pace.
But an off-the-ball obstruction caused a midfield flare-up, leading to Ephraim Taukafa receiving a yellow card.
That allowed Taylor to slot his first penalty of the night, at the third attempt.
But just as Gloucester looked to exploit their power running, Mont de Marsan snaffled a loose pass and won their first kickable penalty of the night, that full-back Claverie duly dispatched.
And then all hell broke loose, with Hazell and Cox censured after another ill-tempered exchange.
Usually unflustered Hazell was incensed, and unleashed a bevy of punches and a knee in clear reaction to provocation – and was duly dismissed.
Fellow flanker Cox received a yellow card from referee Neil Hennessy for his part in the ensuing melee.
So Gloucester were two men light for ten minutes – and one light for the final quarter.
The Cherry and Whites still managed to hold territory and possession though – a huge feat.
Gloucester panicked a clearance, and Molenaar threw an interception pass, but the visitors went unpunished.
Two fine line kicks from replacement fly-half Billy Twelvetrees kept the French side pinned back.
Left-wing Dubie ghosted into space to receive a cross-field kick for the home side – but the slick ball slipped through his grasp.
Gloucester conceded a soft penalty for chasing in front of Twelvetrees' Garry Owen though, and Claverie slotted his second goal to set up a fraught last four minutes.
Glouester stayed strong though, shrugged off their handicap – and ensured they return home with the all-important points.
Plenty more repercussions to come on the discipline front no doubt: but this is another victory that merits respect.
MONT DE MARSAN: J B Claverie, J Beaulavon, C Baegert, T Mchedlidze (Y Durquet, 39), J B Dubie, A Douvesy (T Duvallet, 53), J Cabannes (capt) (L Magnaval, 62), P Correia (M Phelipponeau, 49), T Bordes (E Taukafa, 49), M Giudicelli (S Ormaechea, 49), S Murray, V Liebenberg (E Dos Santos, 77), Y Brethous, S De Chaves (V Farre, 62), A Lescure. Replacements:.
GLOUCESTER: M Thomas, C Sharples, T Molenaar (H Trinder, 64), M Tindall (capt), I Clark, T Taylor (B Twelvetrees, 53), D Lewis (J Cowan, 53), Y Thomas (N Wood, 56), K Britton (v, 71), S Knight (D Chistolini, 71), P Buxton (E Stooke, 73), W James, M Cox (G Evans, 73), A Hazell, S Kalamafoni.
REFEREE: Neil Hennessy (Wales).