Esterhuizen's yellow card proves costly for Harlequins
CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: No.8 Zach Mercer scored a try brace as Montpellier secured an impressive 40-26 win over Harlequins in the Champions Cup Round of 16 first leg at GGL Stadium on Sunday.
Gabriel N’gandebe, Cobus Reinach and Titi Lamositele went over in addition to Mercer’s double, who was awarded Star of the Match for his impressive display.
However, Quins scored four second-half tries to keep themselves in in contention ahead of the second leg at Twickenham Stoop next weekend – George Hammond, Andre Esterhuizen, Joe Marchant and Louis Lynagh dotted down for the visitors.
Quins had plenty of the ball during the opening stages but Montpellier’s defence was aggressive and well-drilled, regularly driving the visitors back in contact.
And the TOP 14 outfit would take the lead on 21 minutes when wing N’gandebe gathered after a cross-field kick from Quins flyhalf Marcus Smith went to ground, racing over in the corner from 20 metres out.
Montpellier doubled their advantage on 31 minutes when Mercer smashed his way over from close range, and a yellow card for centre Andre Esterhuizen for a deliberate knock-on in the build-up compounded Quins’ misery.
With an extra man, Montpellier turned the screw, with scrumhalf Reinach dotting down to punish Quins for a dropped ball in midfield before Mercer finished superbly in the corner for his second score on 38 minutes.
The hosts went into the second half with a 26-0 lead, and that margin would be extended as they took advantage of the final minute of Esterhuizen’s sin bin, running the Quins defence ragged with a series of offloads before eventually forcing their way over through prop Lamositele.
Flyhalf Paolo Garbisi added three more points with a penalty on 47 minutes, but Quins would finally get some points on the board when flank Hammond gathered Smith’s stabbed kick in behind and dotted down.
They reduced the deficit further on 61 minutes as Esterhuizen powered over and planted down following a quickly-taken penalty.
Another Quins try came four minutes later as wing Lynagh streaked through and teed up centre Marchant who stepped inside the covering defender to score.
Montpellier replacement flyhalf Handré Pollard kicked a penalty with five minutes to play, but Quins got over again in the closing stages as Lynagh intercepted and ran from inside his own half to score.
Pollard had the final say as he kicked another penalty in the final play of the game, leaving his side with a 14-point lead heading into the second leg on Saturday.
Tries: N’gandebe, Mercer 2, Reinach, Lamositele
Cons: Garbisi 3
Pens: Garbisi, Pollard 2
Tries: Hammond, Esterhuizen, Marchant, Lynagh
Cons: Smith 3
Yellow card: Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins, 30 – deliberate knock-on)
Montpellier: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Vincent Rattez, 13 Thomas Darmon, 12 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11 Gabriel N’gandebe, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Kelian Galletier, 6 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 5 Paul Willemse (captain), 4 Bastien Chalureau, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Enzo Forletta
Replacements: 16 Vincent Giudicelli, 17 Robert Rodgers, 18 Mohamed Haouas, 19 Masivesi Dakuwaqa, 20 Gela Aprasidze, 21 Handré Pollard, 22 Julien Tisseron, 23 Florian Verhaeghe
Harlequins: 15 Huw Jones, 14 Louis Lynagh, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt (captain), 7 Tom Lawday, 6 George Hammond, 5 Hugh Tizard, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Will Collier, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Simon Kerrod, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Matas Jurevicius, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Lewis Gjaltema, 22 Will Edwards, 23 Nick David
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Chris Busby (Ireland), Oisin Quinn (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)