Goosen the hero as Montpellier claim Challenge Cup title
CHALLENGE CUP REPORT: Johan Goosen’s second-half try proved the difference as Montpellier edged out Leicester 18-17 to win the European Challenge Cup final at a rainswept Twickenham on Friday.
Leicester were 17-10 ahead early in the second half of a see-saw contest thanks to No.8 Jasper Wiese’s try.
But when Goosen, his fellow South African, went over for Montpellier in the 58th minute, the French club had a slender 18-17 lead after Benoit Paillague’s conversion came back off the far post.
Montpellier were able to run down the clock in the closing stages as they won this tournament for a second time following their 2016 success.
Montpellier’s victory was all the more impressive as they were twice reduced to 14 men after both No.8 Alexandre Becognee and captain Guilhem Guirado were sin-binned.
Their win means France are assured of a European club double this season, with Top 14 rivals Toulouse and La Rochelle contesting the premier European Champions Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday.
Defeat left two-time European champions Leicester looking for their first major trophy since they won the last of their 10 English Premiership titles in 2013.
In front of a crowd of 10 000 mostly Leicester fans – the first time spectators had been seen at the 80 000 capacity Twickenham ground since last year’s Nations Cup following this week’s easing of Covid-19 restrictions – an entertaining first half ended all square at 10-10 as England coach Eddie Jones looked on from the stands.
Both teams scored a penalty and converted try apiece, France wing Vincent Rattez crossing for Montpellier before lock Harry Wells went over for Leicester.
The Tigers, coached by former England captain Steve Borthwick, were up against a star-studded Montpellier side, with former France skipper Philippe Saint-Andre leaving World Cup-winners – Bismarck Du Plessis, Cobus Reinach and Handre Pollard – on the bench.
But it was Goosen, one of their less heralded South Africans, who stole the show.
Leicester went ahead in the eighth minute when England flyhalf George Ford kicked a penalty.
Montpellier, however, responded six minutes later.
A neat handling move featuring a swift pass from flyhalf Alex Lozowski saw the ball worked out to Rattez on the left wing.
Rattez then won the race to the touchdown of his own grubber-kick, just ahead of Leicester’s Matias Moroni.
Paillaugue kicked the conversion and, minutes later, the scrumhalf’s penalty gave Montpellier a 10-3 lead.
Montpellier, however, were a man down for the last 10 minutes of the first half when Becognee was sin-binned for collapsing a maul.
Leicester then made their man advantage count when lock Wells forced his way over for a try.
Ford’s conversion tied the scores at 10-10 and that was how it stayed come the break after Paillaugue missed a difficult long-range penalty.
Leicester thought they had scored a try through Nemani Nadolo early in the second half but the powerhouse Fiji wing’s effort was ruled out by a knock-on earlier in the move.
Montpellier though were down to 14 men again when hooker Guirado was yellow carded.
Leicester, rather than go for goal, kicked the ensuing penalty for a close-range line-out and were rewarded when No 8 Wiese was driven over for a try.
Ford added the tough conversion to put Leicester seven points in front before Paillaugue’s second successful penalty of the match reduced Montpellier’s deficit to 17-13.
And they were in front when, after replacement Gabriel N’gandebe fielded a high-ball, Bouthier counter-attacked before releasing former Springbok centre Goosen with an inside pass.
Tries: Wells, Wiese
Cons: Ford 2
Tries: Rattez, Goosen
Pens: Paillaugue 2
Yellow cards: Alexandre Becognee (Montpellier, 30); Guilhem Guirado (Montpellier, 44)
Leicester: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Guy Porter, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Dan Kelly, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 George Ford, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 5 Calum Green, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Cameron Henderson, 20 Tommy Reffell, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Zack Henry, 23 Kini Murimurivalu.
Montpellier: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Arthur Vincent, 13 Johan Goosen, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Alexandre Becognee, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Florian Verhaeghe, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Enzo Forletta.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Robert Rodgers, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Tyler Duguid, 20 Jacques du Plessis, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Gabriel N’gandebe.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Chris Busby (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)