© www.lpwp.fr 21 Apr Longing for May... By: Tim Hartog National Leagues, France Pro A league The 16th round of the French Pro A League even if it was not the last of the regular phase, was however almost consodered as the last for many teams. Indeed the four semi-finalists are already known and the final match between teams of the "big three" saw the probative win of Marseille over Nice (8-4). The only (mild) suspense remaining is the final ranking of Nice and Montpellier. Demoted to third place last week Montpellier regained its "traditional" second place with a win against Aix-en-Provence (16-11). Three teams dominate the French league for years: Marseille, Montpellier and Nice. Three teams that, due to calendar, had to play each against the other in three consecutive rounds. For the last “shock” of the regular season, Marseille hosted Nice in its venue. With two convincing wins against Strasbourg (11-8)and Montpellier (12-7), Nice did not come on the Canebière in sin offering, on the contrary. Despite this, Olivier Chandieu, had prepared a very experimental team, since around a solid core of experienced players, he had included in its roster no fewer than six players aged 19 and under. The gamble paid off for the coach of Marseille, as his very young players have greatly contributed to the victory (8-4) obtained in a game where the defenses took precedence over the attacks. Despite the final score not so "spectacular" (8-4), Nice was never able to worry about the Provencals players, in full confidence and optimum shape. Now, unless an unlikely cataclysm, Marseille has ensured the leading position, synonymous a second leg at home in the semifinals and (normally) final. Rémi Garsau (Marseille) was not very busy against Nice (www.lpwp.fr) Montpellier, who received Aix-en-Provence was in an urgent need to reassure itself three weeks before the semifinals. Indeed it had been six years since Montpellier had not lost two consecutive matches (Marseille and Nice), nor found itself in third place. Also not to mention crisis, it was nevertheless capital to win this match if only to regain this second place and the advantage of playing the second leg of the semi-finals in Antigone. Led by Mathieu Peisson and Andrija Vlahovic (5 goals each), Montpellier assured the victory (16-11), but not more. However Fabien Vasseur, the coach of the reigning champion, can not be satisfied with the very "normal" performance of his team. It will need a totally new level of play to get rid of Nice and reach the final. So as Marseille is longing to be in May so one can just suppose that Montpellier would like have a little more time to regain the level of a title contender. It took time for Strasbourg to get rid of Sète, yet deprived of four major players (suspension, birth of child, injury), since at halftime the score was only 5-4. Already qualified for the semifinals the Alsatians confirmed their new status and, under the impetus of the Blary brothers, Nikola Sutic and Marko Bratic, Strasbourg digged a unbridgeable gap in the third period (11-6), claiming a supremacy that Sète, demobilized and on the edge of an off-season that may be eventful, would no longer challenge (final score 16-9). During the last two games of the regular season Strasbourg has yet to receive Montpellier and Nice, which will be a great and necessary rehearsal before facing Marseille in the semifinals. Robin Lindhout (Lille) (www.lpwp.fr) Gerard Reixach-Boix (St-jean d’Angély) After a discreet game last week (only one goal), Robin Lindhout woke up loudly against Saint-Jean d'Angély with eight goals scored! It seems that Spanish opponent motivate Robin since, after he "mastered" Oscar Carrillo three weeks ago, this time he found Gerard Reixach-Boix in the water. Top-scorer in the lower division last season (131 goals!), the Spanish striker is now the best offensive weapon of his team status he confirmed against Lille with 7 goals! Moreover this performance allows him to reach the podium of the best scorers, in third place while Lindhout, always second, is now only one goal from the summit. With the exception of the homeric duel between two great strikers, one may not retain much of this match, except that it was particularly chopped, hard (30 personal fouls), and the the third period (6-8) was the most prolific of this season. The victory of Lille (18-13) allows the Northeners to keep hop of catching the 5th place in the championship while Saint-Jean d'Angély, always last, is not much afraid to be relegated since in the current context of French water polo, it is unlikely that a team from the lower division (National 1) can get up to Pro A level next season.. In the last match of this round, Douai had no difficulty beating Noisy (17-7) who had yet been seen in much better shape last week. French Pro A League Results Douai – Noisy 17 – 7 (3-3, 6-4, 4-0, 4-0) Marseille – Nice 8 – 4 (2-0, 1-1, 2-2, 3-1) Strasbourg – Sète 16 – 9 (2-1, 3-3, 6-2, 5-3) Montpellier – Aix-en-Provence 16 – 11 (5-2, 4-5, 4-2, 3-2) Lille – Saint-Jean d’Angély 18 – 13 (4-1, 4-1, 6-8, 4-3) Standings after 16 matches: 1- Marseille – 44 pts (+ 123) 2- Montpellier – 39 pts (+ 76) 3- Nice – 37 pts (+ 71) 4- Strasbourg – 32 pts (+ 36) 5- Aix-en-Provence – 19 pts (- 28) 6- Lille – 16 pts (- 31) 7 - Douai – 16 pts (- 34) 8- Sète – 14 pt (- 42) 9- Noisy – 9 pts (- 86) 10- Saint-Jean d’Angély – 7 pts (- 85) Top scorers: 1 – Oscar Carrillo (Aix-en-Provence) 61 goals 2 – Robin Lindhout (Lille) 60 goals 3 – Gerard Reixach-Boix (Saint-Jean d’Angély) 51 goals Next round 25 April Noisy – Nice Strasbourg – Montpellier Saint-Jean d’Angély – Marseille Sète – Aix-en-Provence Lille - Douai Thanks to Eric Dupont.