Three duels to follow in the Montpellier-UBB Top 14 semi-final

Mohamed Haouas – Thierry Paiva

In the final phase, the scrum takes on an even more important dimension, when each team seeks to obtain the slightest penalty likely to give it the advantage. Saturday evening, Mohamed Haouas (28) and Thierry Paiva (26) will therefore have part of the fate of the semi-final in their hands. The right-hander from Montpellier and the left-hander from Bordeaux are serious clients in the field, thanks to their impressive physical density (1.85m, 122 kg for Haouas, 1.84m, 120 kg for Paiva).

Mohamed Haouas challenges the Castres defence.  (F. Lancelot/The Team)

Mohamed Haouas challenges the Castres defence. (F. Lancelot/The Team)

Descended in the hierarchy of numbers 3 in the France team, behind Uini Atonio and Demba Bamba, Haouas knows that a title could once again draw the light on him, while his competitors are no longer in the race for Brennus. For Paiva, it will be more a question of ending his adventure in Gironde well, before joining Stade Rochelais this summer.

Zach Mercer – Bastien Vergnes-Taillefer

If the title of regular season MVP existed in rugby, Zach Mercer would most certainly be the chosen one. The English third-line (24 years old) delivered a 2021-2022 exercise of a stratospheric level and finished among the best players in the Top 14 in a good number of statistical data. He is thus the one who carried the ball the most (324 runs) and made the most offloads (34). He also distinguished himself with 1317 meters covered and 73 defenders beaten. And the list is still long.

Opposite him, the Englishman will be opposed to one of the Bordeaux revelations of the season, Bastien Vergnes-Taillefer (25). Landed last summer at the UBB from Colomiers, he gradually made a place for himself in his new club, despite significant competition in his position. Taking advantage of his versatility (flanker or n°8), the solid player (1.94 m; 111 kg) played 21 matches, including 12 as starters. Big tackler, powerful, useful in touch, interesting with the ball, Vergnes-Taillefer will pass a capital test against Mercer.

Romain Buros escapes the Racing defense in the shoot-off.  (N. Luttiau/The Team)

Romain Buros escapes the Racing defense in the shoot-off. (N. Luttiau/The Team)

Anthony Bouthier – Romain Buros

Anthony Bouthier and Romain Buros are part of these rear riders, who fully flourish when the opponent leaves them a little too much space and they can rush into thin gaps. Called up with the Blues at the start of Fabien Galthié’s mandate, then snubbed since, the Montpellier player has played without complex this season. With 11 crossings and 44 defenders beaten, forgetting his enormous kicking game, he made the MHR advance a lot.

For his part, Romain Buros was injured for a few months at the start of 2022, but when he was aligned, Christophe Urios was not disappointed. Integrating perfectly into the offensive inspirations of the Bordeaux hinge, he is often at the end of the actions, as with his play-off test against Racing (36-16).

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