Connacht edge Montpellier
MATCH REPORT: Connacht Rugby got their Champions Cup Pool 5 campaign off to the perfect start with a 23-20 win over Montpellier at The Sportsground.
Montpellier dominated early on and got the first try after Jack Carty chipped a ball over the top that was recovered by the French side and as they spread play wide, Aaron Cruden found himself in acres of space and sprinted clear for the opening try.
The sides traded penalties in a first half edged by Montpellier but the final five minutes of the opening 40 proved critical for the visitors.
On 38 minutes, Connacht’s attacking scrum proved strong and that allowed the forwards to do the damage, with Paul Boyle scrambling over the try line.
But the damage was not done by the Irish province as Montpellier ended up down to 14 men for an infringement at the line-out, and from the resulting play, Connacht’s driving maul did the business as Tom McCartney barged his way over, putting Connacht 13-10 up at the interval.
The French side got level with a Benoit Paillaugue penalty on 47 minutes but they were not level for long as Connacht scored their third try of the match.
Five minutes later, Connacht worked the ball well and with two penalty advantages being played, that gave Caolin Blade the chance to dive between two Montpellier men and score a crucial try.
Montpellier were not done with and responded yet again on 64 minutes, working the play wide right and finding Anthony Boutier who did extremely well to see off two tackles, sprinting clear for the score.
With 13 minutes to play, Connacht then won a penalty in kicking range and young Conor Fitzgerald booted over with pinpoint accuracy for what turned out to be the match-winning points.
Connacht travel to face Toulouse in Round 2 while Montpellier will host Gloucester Rugby.
Tries: Boyle, McCartney, Blade
Pens: Carty, Fitzgerald
Tries: Cruden, Bouthier
Cons: Paillaugue 2
Pens: Paillaugue 2
Yellow card: Paul Willemse (Montpellier, 40)
Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Colby Fainga’a, 5 Ultan Dillane, 4 Cillian Gallagher, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley,
Replacements: 16 David Heffernan, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Conor Kenny, 19 Eoghan Masterson, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 Stephen Kerins, 22 Tom Daly, 23 John Porch
Montpellier: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Gabriel N’gandebe, 13 Arthur Vincent, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Yvan Reilhac, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Benoit Paillaugue (captain), 8 Caleb Timu, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Kelian Galletier, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Youri Delhommel, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili,
Replacements: 16 Bismarck Du Plessis, 17 Grégory Fichten, 18 Jannie Du Plessis, 19 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 20 Enzo Sanga, 21 Julien Bardy, 22 Henry Immelman, 23 Jacques Du Plessis
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Tom Foley (England), Simon McConnell (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)