Leinster pivot Johnny Sexton kicked a late penalty to seal a 16-16 draw with Montpellier, and deny the French club a famous win.
Leinster pivot Johnny Sexton kicked a last-gasp penalty to snatch a 16-16 draw with Montpellier, and deny the French club a famous opening Heineken Cup win on Saturday.
In what was an absorbing contest at the Stade Yves Du Manoir, the hosts looked to have done everything humanly possible to hold off the defending champions until a brain explosion from replacement Remy Martin handed Sexton a chance to save his team's blushes… and the Ireland star didn't disappoint.
Heartbreak for Montpellier, relief for Leinster. But, perhaps, a fair result.
It was a rip-roaring Pool 3 clash, with both teams showing tremendous skill with ball in hand as the crowd were treated to some brilliant entertaining rugby.
It was Test match quality, and neither side took their foot off the pedal as the match clicked from first to fifth gear straight from the kick-off. And it continued to stay that way right until the final whistle.
Up against the defending champions, tournament newbies Montpellier quite rightly entered the match as underdogs.
But the Frenchmen – third last in the Top 14 – weren't prepared to roll over so easily, and instead delivered a ferocious performance that more often than not left the Irish province shell-shocked.
Scrum-half Benoit Paillaugue opened Montpellier's Heineken Cup account with a penalty after two minutes but that was soon cancelled out by Sexton who kicked his first points of the 2011/12 campaign.
The two-time Heineken Cup-winnnig fly-half then kicked Leinster in front with his second penalty from 47m out to take the lead.
Powered on from their fanatical support, Montpellier then crossed for the opening try in fantastic fashion. With Leinster on the attack, an Ica Nacewa chip hit a Montpellier defender which allowed Lucas Amorosino to hack ahead and give chase.
Amorosino won the footrace, and captain Fulgence Ouedraogo was fed the ball for the easiest of scores. Paillaugue added the extras and then another penalty before the interval to round-up a dominant first forty minutes.
The titanic battle continued at a furious pace in the second period and it again was Montpellier that struck first. With Paillaugue off the field, kicking duties fell to Francois Trinh-Duc, and the French fly-half had no problem extending his side's lead to ten points (16-6).
Leinster, famed for their fightback ability, then began edging their way back into the game. Using all their European experience they started pushing Montpellier backwards and started to control proceedings.
Replacement hooker Sean Cronin showed great pace and power to grab Leinster's only try and Sexton's conversion brought the scores to within three.
With the clock showing red, Sexton then cooly slotted his final penalty. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Pens: Paillaugue 2, Trinh-Duc
Pens: Sexton 3
Montpellier: 15 Lucas Amorosino, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Santiago Fernandez, 11 Yoan Audrin, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Masi Matadigo, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Thibaut Privat, 4 Mickael Demarco, 3 Maximiliano Bustos, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Na'ama Leleimalefaga.
Replacements: 16 Rassie Jansen Van Vuuren, 17 Mikheil Nariashvili, 18 George Jgenti, 19 Drickus Hancke, 20 RÃ©my Martin, 21 Julien Tomas, 22 Paul Bosch, 23 Martin Bustos Moyano.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Isa Nacewa, 13 Fergus McFadden, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Damian Browne, 4 Leo Cullen, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Heinke Van Der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Nathan White, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Shane Jennings, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Eoin O'Malley.
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)