Pollard returns as Montpellier survive Bath for final spot
CHALLENGE CUP REPORT: Montpellier put in a herculean defensive display to defeat Bath Rugby 19-10 and secure a spot against Leicester Tigers in the European Rugby Challenge Cup final.
The French side managed to hold Bath scoreless in the second period despite coming under severe pressure throughout, having made a slow start and looked under pressure at several stages.
It was a horror start from Montpellier who looked shell-shocked when Guilhem Guirado launched a line-out too far and was knocked into the path of the Bath forwards. Two phases later, Tom Dunn was able to power close and then onto the whitewash for the opening try.
Benoit Paillaugue – who was exceptional after a shaky start – kicked a penalty to cut the gap and assisted in Montpellier getting in front for the first time.
The scrum-half chipped a lovely ball in behind to Vincent Rattez and he released Yacouba Camara on the overlap who powered clear of the trailing Bath defenders for what would prove to be the final try of the match on 22 minutes.
Ben Spencer and Paillaugue then traded three-pointers before the latter landed another to give the visitors a six-point lead at the break.
Only three points were scored in the second period but that doesn’t tell the full story.
Bath spent large periods camped in the Montpellier 22, and although the visitors had Enzo Forletta sent to the sin bin, they were able to survive a barrage of attacks and even slot the final points through Handre Pollard to clinch a spot in the showpiece final at Twickenham.
Pens: Paillaugue 3, Pollard
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Will Muir, 10 Orlando Bailey, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Taulupe Faletau, 5 Charlie Ewels (captain), 4 Josh McNally, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Miles Reid, 22 Will Chudley, 23 Max Clark.
Montpellier: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Julien Tisseron, 13 Johan Goosen, 12 Arthur Vincent, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Alexandre Becognee, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Florian Verhaeghe, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 1 Enzo Forletta.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck Du Plessis, 17 Grégory Fichten, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Tyler Duguid, 20 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Vincent Martin.
Referee: Andrew Brace
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy, Chris Busby
TMO: Brian MacNeice