Montpellier Boks shine in crushing win
EUROPEAN CUP REPORT: Montpellier Hérault triumphed 37-26 over Exeter Chiefs on Sunday to secure the last available Round of 16 place.
Montpellier came into the game at GGL Stadium knowing that a solitary point would be enough for them to overhaul Glasgow Warriors in Pool A and secure their progression with a top-eight finish.
Exeter was on top for spells and No.8 Sam Simmonds scored a sensational hat-trick, but the 2020 champions were forced to settle for a sixth-place finish in the pool after being outfought by Montpellier.
Chiefs got off to a strong start as Simmonds went over for a trademark score, peeling off a maul and finishing from just over 10 metres out.
But Montpellier was fired up for their fate-deciding game, and the TOP 14 side notched their first try when a breathtaking surge from Gabriel N’gandebe saw the winger break clear before teeing up full-back Anthony Bouthier.
Lock Paul Willemse then went over following a powerful Montpellier maul on 24 minutes, and their onslaught continued when centre Jan Serfontein crossed in the corner moments later and fly-half Louis Foursans, who tallied 12 points, nudged a penalty.
Exeter steadied themselves after the third score and enjoyed a prosperous final 10 minutes of the first half as Simmonds battered his way over again and centre Sean O’Brien picked off a stray pass to run clear and dot down.
Chiefs fullback Stuart Hogg saw a try chalked off by the TMO on the stroke of half-time, but they would get their fourth and reclaim the lead four minutes into the second period through Simmonds’ hat-trick effort.
Exeter hammered away at the Montpellier defence for over 20 phases before Simmonds once again proved a difficult man to stop as he bounced through the tackles and over the line.
However, another Foursans penalty put Montpellier back in front on 67 minutes, and the crucial moment for them came a few minutes later when replacement Cobus Reinach intercepted and ran the length of the pitch to score the bonus point try.
Montpellier was able to see out the final minutes with qualification wrapped up, Paolo Garbisi’s late penalty adding further gloss to an excellent performance.
Tries: Bouthier, Willemse, Serfontein, Reinach
Cons: Foursans 3, Garbisi
Pens: Foursans 2, Garbisi
For Exeter Chiefs
Tries: Simmonds 3, O’Brien
Cons: Simmonds 3
Montpellier: 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Gabriel N’gandebe, 13 Yvan Reilhac, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Louis Foursans, 9 Gela Aprasidze, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Yacouba Camara (captain), 6 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Bastien Chalureau, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Enzo Forletta.
Replacements: 16 Guilhem Guirado, 17 Robert Rodgers, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Alexandre Becognee, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Paolo Garbisi, 22 Thomas Darmon, 23 Florian Verhaeghe.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Sean O’Brien, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Sean Lonsdale, 3 Sam Nixon, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (captain), 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 James Kenny, 18 Patrick Schickerling, 19 Christ Tshiunza, 20 Don Armand, 21 Sam Maunder, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Olly Woodburn.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Peter Martin (Ireland), Dan Carson (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)