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Montpellier crushed Conor O’Shea hopes of signing off with some silverware by beating Harlequins 19-26 at the Grand Stade de Lyon.
The match was O’Shea final match in charge of Harlequins before he moves on to take charge of Italy after six years at the Twickenham Stoop.
Jake White’s Montpellier outscored Harlequins by two tries to one in the match with replacement Jesse Mogg scoring both of the French side’s tries.
A brace of tries from replacement full-back Jesse Mogg swung the Grand Stade de Lyon final the way of Jake White’s men. The South African coach and three of his star-men, Bismarck du Plessis, Janie du Plessis and Frans Steyn have now added a Challenge Cup winners medal to their Rugby World Cup triumph in 2007.
Demetri Catrakilis landed four penalties to put the trophy beyond Quins’ reach, before Marland Yarde snaffled up a grubber kick to score and give the English side hope. But, despite Botica’s late penalty, it was not quite enough to give the London side their fourth Challenge Cup title.
Montpellier have earned a place in the next season’s Champions Cup pool stage with their Lyon triumph.
Harlequins, who will wave goodbye to their director of rugby Conor O’Shea at the end of the season, looked intent to give him the perfect send-off from the first whistle. Nick Evans chipped over the onrushing Montpellier defence to find space for George Lowe before the promising attack was illegally slowed by Mikheil Nariashvili. Former All Black Evans was on-target with the resulting penalty for an early 3-0 lead.
But it did not take long for the French heavyweights to land a counter-blow. Their giant pack shunted them to a scrum penalty from five metres out, and Catrakilis made no mistake from the tee to level the scores after six minutes.
Benjamin Fall was forced off for Montpellier with a hamstring injury, but his replacement struck to bring the final to life. The 127kg lock Paul Willemse burst through on the halfway line, before Frans Steyn looped a pass to Marvin O’Connor. The wing darted inside before feeding Anthony Tuitavke, who in-turn gave a pass to Jesse Mogg, who sprinted over the try-line.
It looked as if Montpellier were pulling away when Catrakilis landed another penalty to make it 13-3. But Evans hit two of his own to cut the gap to four points at half-time.
Evans missed a penalty after the interval that would have cut the deficit to a single point, and his Quins side were made to pay. Jake White’s men hammered at the door, with Catrakilis going close.
But with a penalty advantage, replacement scrum-half Benoit Paillaugue found Mogg with a perfectly weighted kick, and the Aussie claimed it to score his second. Catrakilis converted for a 20-9 advantage.
Catrikilis landed his third penalty after 57 minutes, before Quins blew a golden opportunity. Lowe made an initial break downfield before Yarde accelerated towards the line. Mike Brown sent an accurate kick towards Tim Visser, but the flying dutchman could not mimic Mogg and spilled the ball. And Catrikilis landed another penalty to wrap-it-up at 26-9.
Yarde picked up Ben Botica’s grubber kick to score and give Quins hope, before Botica hit a penalty to give them a three-point gap to make-up with as many minutes remaining.
Paul Willemse (Montpellier) was named European Rugby Challenge Cup man of the match.
Final Score Montpellier 19 (9) Harlequins 26 (13)
Tries – Mogg 2
Pen – Catrakilis 4
Con – Catrakilis 2
Tries – Yarde
Pen – Evans 3, Botica
Con – Botica
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland),
Assistant ref: Marius Mitrea (Italy),
Assistant ref: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland),
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland),
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (Ireland)
Harlequins: Mike Brown; Marland Yarde, George Lowe, Jamie Roberts, Tim Visser; Nick Evans, Danny Care (c); Joe Marler, Joe Gray, Adam Jones, James Horwill, Sam Twomey, Chris Robshaw, Luke Wallace, Nick Easter
Replacements: Dave Ward, Mark Lambert, Kyle Sinckler, Mat Luamanu, Jack Clifford, Karl Dickson, Ben Botica, Ross Chisholm
Montpellier: Benjamin Fall; Timoci Nagusa, Anthony Tuitavke, Frans Steyn, Marvin O’Connor; Demetri Catrakilis, Nic White; Mikheil Nariashvili, Bismarck Du Plessis, Jannie Du Plessis, Jacques Du Plessis, Paul Willemse, Fulgence Ouedraogo (c), Akapusi Qera, Pierre Spies
Replacements: Mickael Ivaldi, Yvan Watremez, Davit Kubriashvili, Sitaleki Timani, Kelian Galletier, Benoit Paillaugue, Robert Ebersohn, Jesse Mogg.
With thanks to EPCRugby
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