Planet Rugby

Last eight spot for Montpellier

19th January 2013 17:32

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Thomas Combezou January 2013

Try scorer: Thomas Combezou

Montpellier have progressed to the Heineken Cup quarter-finals after beating Pool winners Toulon 23-3 at Stade Yves du Manoir on Saturday.

The home side paid tribute to their late forwards coach Eric Bechu with an outstanding showing in poor conditions, with the busy Benoit Paillaugue's 15 points helping them qualify for the last-eight of the competition for the first time in their history.

Toulon came off second best to the power of the Montpol forward pack, which dominated the Top 14 league leaders until the likes of Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Joe van Niekerk came on.

Montpellier headed into the game needing two points to make sure of qualification, but they fell behind in the fifth minute, as Jonny Wilkinson converted a penalty for the visitors after the hosts infringed at the scrum.

But Toulon's lead didn't last long, and, when Santiago Fernandez's grubber won possession for his side, a powerful maul created the opening for Thomas Combezou to score. Benoit Paillaugue added the extras and then booted over a hat-trick of quickfire penalties to stretch Montpellier's advantage to 13 points.

The hosts were unable to add to their lead before half-time, but they held their opponents at bay with reasonable ease, and their cause was helped when Toulon's Delon Armitage was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on 34 minutes.

The second half opened with Montpellier enjoying the lion's share of possession and territory, and they got their rewards just seven minutes in when Paillaugue pounced on a loose Toulon pass to crash over for what would prove to be the game-clinching try.

That put the hosts a full 20 points in front and, though Toulon searched for a route back into the contest, the few times they reached home territory they came away empty-handed.

Chances in the final 30 minutes came and went for Montpellier, but, as the match edged past the hour mark, the hosts knew they'd done enough to keep their interests in the tournament alive. Toulon win the Pool despite the result, with Montpellier taking that all-important second spot.

The scorers:

For Montpellier:
Tries: Combezou, Paillaugue
Con: Paillaugue 2
Pen: Paillaugue 3

For Toulon:
Pen: Wilkinson
Yellow card: Delon Armitage (33 minutes)

Montpellier: 15 Pierre Bérard, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Santiago Fernandez, 11 Yoan Audrin, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Johnnie Beattie, 6 Alexandre Bias, 5 Mamuka Gorgodze, 4 Mickael Demarco, 3 Maximiliano Bustos, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements:16 Rassie van Vuuren, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Barry Fa'amausili, 19 Aliki Fakate, 20 Thibaut Privat, 21 Kelian Galletier, 22 Eric Escande, 23 Lucas Amorosino.

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Rudi Wulf, 13 Maxime Mermoz, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Jonny Wilkinson (capt), 9 Frédéric Michalak, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Pierrick Gunther, 5 Jocelino Suta, 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Davit Kubriashvili, 2 Mickaël Ivaldi, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Carl Hayman, 19 Nick Kennedy, 20 Mathieu Bastareaud, 21 Juan-Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 22 Vincent Martin, 23 Joe van Niekerk.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Kevin Beggs (Ireland)
Television match official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)

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