Sale muscled out by Montpellier

Date published: April 8 2016

Montpellier booked their place in the Challenge Cup semi-finals as they showed their power against Sale, winning 25-19 at AJ Bell Stadium.

The pack of the French heavyweights played its part in the contest and Benoit Paillaugue did the rest with six penalty goals off the tee.

Altrad Stadium will be the setting for Montpellier's last-four showdown, which will see them face the winner of Gloucester versus Dragons.

Sale did outscore Montpellier on the try front with efforts from Tom Brady and Sam James bettering one from Paul Willemse, but as mentioned it was the boot of Paillaugue that did the damage as Sale's fine home run was ended.

Montpellier, going nicely in second spot in the Top 14, named their strongest XV as they looked to get their hands on European silverware.

But they were trailing at half-time in Salford as the Sharks proved they can mix it with the biggest and best as they went in 10-11 ahead.

Danny Cipriani was as always their catalyst and he got the hosts 0-3 in front on eleven minutes with a penalty going through the uprights.

But Montpol hit back in ideal style four minutes later when lock Willemse crashed over, showing the French side's power up front for 7-3.

Paillaugue followed up that conversion with a penalty on seventeen minutes to make it 10-3, but Sale remained calm and were over the line themselves four minutes later when lovely hands from Cipriani and full-back Mike Haley allowed Brady to power his way over the whitewash.

Although Cipriani was off-target with his conversion attempt from the touchline, he made no mistake from in front for the half-time lead.

It would be Montpellier who landed the first blow of the second stanza though when Paillaugue slotted a solid penalty that made it 13-11.

And then came the period that Montpellier turned the screw at the breakdown as four further three-pointers from Paillaugue to one from Cipriani meant it was 25-14 with five minutes remaining at the AJ Bell Stadium. Two scores down it seemed that the Sharks' hopes were over.

However, the hosts finished by showing real spirit as a lovely try, set up by Cipriani and scored by James, gave them a glimmer of hope before Montpellier saw out the game to book their place in the semi-finals.

The scorers:

For Sale:
Tries: Brady, James
Pen: Cipriani 3

For Montpellier:
Try: Willemse
Con: Paillaugue
Pen: Paillaugue 6

Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Sam James, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Nev Edwards, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 TJ Ioane, 7 Magnus Lund (c), 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Eifion Lewis Roberts, 18 Brian Mujati, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 David Seymour, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mark Jennings

Montpellier: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Anthony Tuitavke, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Benjamin Fall, 10 Benjamin Lucas, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Akapusi Qera, 7 Wiaan Liebenberg, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Thibaut Privat, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Jannie Du Plessis, 2 Bismarck Du Plessis, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Davit Kubriashvili, 19 Robins Tchale Watchou, 20 Kelian Galletier, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Robert Ebersohn, 23 Anthony Floch

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson (Ireland), Gary Conway (Ireland)
TMO: Kilgore Marshall (Ireland)