Montpellier hang on to beat Connacht
CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: Montpellier won a see-saw encounter with Connacht 35-29 at the Stadium as these two sides bowed out of this season’s Champions Cup by producing a thriller.
Two tries apiece from Gabriel Ngandebe and Yvan Reilhac ultimately won it for the Top14 side, but Connacht’s thrilling comeback at the end of the first half made for a fantastic spectacle, even though both sides’ hopes of a quarterfinal place had long been extinguished before kick-off.
It all began with Montpellier surging into a 21-0 lead after 28 minutes. The carnage began in the third minute when Levin Chilachava went over, and he had Kelian Galletier to thank for brilliantly claiming a high kick. Handre Pollard added the conversion.
The dancing feet of Gabriel Ngandebe then saw him skip past two slightly weak Connacht tackles and go over between the posts for another converted try, before another thrilling score five minutes later. After a clever cross-field kick by Galletier and some wonderful handling and offloading in the build-up, Ngandebe bulldozed past the last tackle to touch down again.
But, having barely threatened until the 34th minute, Connacht suddenly roared back. Kyle Godwin’s pass found Matt Healy on the left wing with an overlap and he ran in his 25th try in 34 European appearances. Jack Carty was successful with the kick.
Two minutes later, Tiernan O’Halloran released the dashing John Porch down the right and he flew like Superman to touch down beautifully in the corner, with Carty converting.
Godwin almost scored a third, but it was – amazingly – 21-21 just before the break when Kieran Marmion escaped down the right and Carty again proved unerring with the boot.
The comeback was complete after half-time when Godwin’s angled run saw him break the defensive shackles, although Carty’s conversion skewed wide.
But Montpellier were soon gifted the lead again when Healy lost his balance in covering a bobbling grubber kick and Yvan Reilhac took advantage. Pollard’s conversion made it 28-26.
A Carty penalty saw the lead swing back Connacht’s way by a single point but the home side’s pressure finally told as Reilhac got his second try after receiving the ball on the left touchline on the overlap.
Tries: Chilachava, N’gandebe 2, Reilhac 2
Cons: Pollard 5
Tries: Healy, Porch, Marmion, Godwin
Cons: Carty 3
Yellow cards: Jack Carty (Connacht, 57); Nico Janse van Rensburg (Montpellier, 79)
Montpellier: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Gabriel N’gandebe, 13 Arthur Vincent, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Yvan Reilhac, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Jacques Du Plessis, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Kelian Galletier (captain), 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Bismarck Du Plessis, 1 Usha Tcheisvhili.
Replacements:16 Vincent Giudicelli, 17 Mikheil Nariashvili, 18 Mohamed Haouas, 19 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 20 Kahn Fotuali’i, 21 Anthony Bouthier, 22 Thomas Darmon, 23 Konstantine Mikautadze.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 John Porch, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jarrad Butler (captain), 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Joe Maksymiw, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 2 David Heffernan, 1 Paddy McAllister.
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Conor Kenny, 19 Niall Murray, 20 Eoin McKeon, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Tom Daly.
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Tom Foley (England), Hamish Smales (England)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)
Main picture: @connachtrugby