Stephen Myler kicked an 81st-minute penalty to give Northampton Saints a narrow 16-14 win over Montpellier at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.
Saints took the early initiative in the match, scoring a magnificent try through Harry Mallinder after two minutes before the boot of Stephen Myler gave them a 10-point lead.
However, Montpellier’s pack held a huge weight advantage over their Saints counterparts and dragged them back into the match. François Steyn scored a try just before the break to cut the deficit.
Two second-half penalties from Steyn coupled with a Myler effort for Saints meant that the French visitors held a slim one-point advantage heading into the closing stages.
Saints did not give up and were presented with a penalty right at the death which was dispatched by Myler to secure an opening weekend victory for the hosts.
Calum Clark scored after two minutes to get Northampton off to a flyer. Harry Mallinder stormed through a gap in the visitors’ defence. He offloaded to Louis Picamoles who produced a sublime flick to Clark who powered over in the corner.
Myler converted to establish an early seven-point lead. The fly-half scored Saints’ next points with a penalty from 40 metres out. Referee Nigel Owens originally awarded the penalty to Montpellier before penalising them after consulting the big screen; Jacques du Plessis the culprit for a dangerous tackle at the breakdown.
On the half-hour mark, Montpellier hit back. The strength of the French side’s scrum proved too much for the hosts resulting in a penalty.
Ben Botica kicked for the three points and just got the ball through the posts from distance to make the score 10-3. The visitors drew level with the game’s second stunning try in the 34th minute.
Steyn’s try came after Nemani Nadolo took on Northampton’s defence with a marvellous offload on the half-way line. This set Steyn in to score his side’s first try. It reduced the deficit to two points going into half time after the missed conversion.
The first points of the second half came from the boot of Myler after 48 minutes. Montpellier were caught offside in the middle of the pitch and Myler made no mistake to slot an easy kick between the posts to make the score 13-8. Steyn knocked a penalty effort through the posts nine minutes later to keep his side within striking distance.
Kieran Brookes was penalised for not rolling away and Montpellier capitalised, Steyn un-erring with his kick once more to make the score 13-14.
In the last minute, 20-year-old Harry Mallinder had a chance to win the match for the hosts with a kick from 50 metres out. He hooked it wide to the right but play continued and this led to a second penalty.
This time Myler stepped up to convert the pressure kick and secure a dramatic 16-14 victory.
For Northampton Saints
Pens: Myler 3
Pens: Botica, Steyn 2
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 George North, 10 Steve Myler, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Tom Wood, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 James Wilson
Montpellier: 15 Benjamin Fall, 14 Marvin O’Connor, 13 Alexandre Dumoulin, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Nic White, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Antoine Battut, 6 Jacques Du Plessis, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Konstantine Mikautadze, 3 Davit Kubriashvili, 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Romain Ruffenach, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Jannie Du Plessis, 19 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 20 Akapusi Qera, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Vincent Martin, 23 Joffrey Michel
Date: Saturday, October 15
Venue: Franklin’s Gardens
Kick-off: 18:30 BST (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), Rhys Thomas (Wales_
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)