The first round of the European Rugby Champions Cup under the floodlights as Franklin’s Gardens was always down to be a thriller and tonight’s clash with Montpellier Herault rugby certainly did not disappoint.
A packed out Gardens saw Saints attack early on but after going into the break only two points ahead their guests fought back leaving Stephen Myler the tough task of converting a penalty in the last play of the game to get the home side the win.
Saints were on the offensive from the off. Harry Mallinder cut a lovely line through the Montpellier defence, getting the ball cleanly to man-of-the-match Louis Picamoles. The Frenchman offloaded cleverly to Calum Clark to get Saints’ on the scoreboard against his former side.
Myler originally sent the conversion wide but referee Nigel Owens deemed the Montpellier centre Frans Steyn to have purposefully distracted the fly-half, allowing Myler to have a second go. This time he sent the ball through the uprights to see his side a score ahead after just three minutes.
Montpellier attacked themselves and the Frenchmen got close the the whitewash only for the TMO to decide they had been held up.
Saints responded to their visitors’ attack and earned Myler another shot at the sticks moments later. He sent it through to see Saints 10-0 up.
Montpellier got off the mark in the 30th minute with a Ben Botica penalty and got over the tryline minutes later through Steyn after a strong run from Nemani Nadolo got them close. No conversion saw the game close to just two points at the break.
Saints got on the attack again after half-time. Myler sent another penalty through the uprights but a Montpellier penalty through Steyn got the visitors back within two minutes later.
Another Steyn place kick would send Montpellier into the lead for the first time in the game on the 66-minute mark and Saints would grapple with a renewed French defence to get themselves the much-needed win for 14 more minutes.
Only once the clock was about the run out would the home side get the chance to steal the win. After Harry Mallinder had sent a long range kick wide, Myler lined up with the last play of the game. He sent the ball through the uprights as a hushed Gardens was sent into rapturous applause and sealed Saints the win at the death.
SAINTS Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Mallinder, North, Myler, Groom; A Waller, Haywood, Brookes, Dickinson, Paterson, Wood, Clark, Picamoles
Subs – Clare, E Waller, Hill, Ratuniyarawa, Harrison, Dickson, Hutchinson, Wilson
MONTPELLIER Fall; O’Connor, Dumoulin, Steyn, Nadolo, Botica, White; Nariashvili, Mamukashvili, Kubriashvili, Mikautadze, Willemse, Battut, Jaq du Plessis, Spies
Subs – Ruffenach, Watremaz, Jan du Plessis, Ouedraogo, Qera, Wright, Martin, Michel
3mins SAINTS Try Clark Con Myler 7-0
17mins SAINTS Pen Myler 10-0
30mins MONTPELLIER Pen Botica 10-3
35mins MONTPELLIER Try Steyn 10-8
36mins MONTPELLIER Miss Pen Botica 10-8
HALF-TIME Saints 10 Montpellier 8
49mins SAINTS Pen Myler 13-8
57mins MONTPELLIER Pen Steyn 13-11
66mins MONTPELLIER Pen Steyn 13-14
80mins SAINTS Pen Myler 16-14
FULL TIME Saints 16 Montpellier 14