Misfiring Pollard costs Montpellier on Top 14 debut

Paris (AFP) –


South Africa Rugby World Cup winner Handre Pollard wasted eight points from the boot on his French Top 14 debut as Montpellier lost 29-25 at Racing 92 on Saturday.

Fly-half Pollard, who had been sidelined with a facial injury since lifting the Webb Ellis trophy on November 2, missed two penalties and a conversion which would have been enough for his side to secure their first away win of the season.

Pollard was among 10 changes made by the visitors from the side which lost to Toulouse last Saturday in the European Champions Cup and was at half-back joined by Georgia youngster Gela Aprasidze who started a league game for the first time.

Racing coach Laurent Travers brought in four new faces including Tonga prop Ben Tameifuna who had missed eight club matches after reportedly returning from the World Cup overweight.

Racing scrum-half Maxime Machenaud opened the scoring with a penalty goal after less than two minutes of play before Pollard made his first touch in open play in catching a clearance kick.

Machenaud added a second penalty before Louis Dupichot's try made it 13-0 to the home side after less than quarter of an hour.

Montpellier's response came as Pollard fed Anthony Bouthier who found 21-year old Aprasidze on his inside.

Pollard kicked his first points in French rugby by converting the scrum-half's effort for a 13-7 score after 16 minutes.

Jan Serfontein closed the gap to a point with a try six minutes later before Pollard missed two chances to claim the advantage with a missed touchline conversion and penalty goal from 40 metres.

Machenaud slotted a third penalty before France centre Virimi Vakatawa crashed over seconds before the break for a 23-12 half-time lead.

Pollard and Machenaud then traded a shot each at goal before the former Blue Bulls playmaker kicked his second to bring the score to 26-18 with 25 minutes to play but wasted a chance to close the gap to five points failing with his most difficult effort of proceedings three minutes later.

Bouthier then went under the posts and Pollard's conversion made it 26-25 with 17 minutes to go.

Pollard was replaced three minutes later before replacement scrum-half Teddy Iribaren kicked a late penalty to give the hosts some breathing space.

A minute's applause was held before kick-off, as is the case for all games in French professional rugby this weekend, for former France back-rower Ibrahim Diarra who died aged 36 on Wednesday.