Planet Rugby

Sharks sink teeth into Montpellier

08th November 2007 21:29

Share:

Charlie Hodgson v Montpellier

Charlie Hodgson gets Sale going with the opening try

Sale Sharks got their European Challenge Cup campaign off to a flying start with a 49-6 win over Montpellier on Friday et Edgeley Park.

After an edgy first half, in which both teams relied on the boot to gain the territory, and on a devilish wind whose gusts bemused the full-backs to spring surprises, Sale led 9-6.

With the clock already past the 40-minute mark though, Charlie Hodgson reminded us all of how sorely England might have missed him at the World Cup, a 50m run returning a lose kick and sparking a scintillating interplay between himself, Mark Cueto, and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, before taking the latter's pass to score near the posts.

Sale thus went into the dressing rooms a comfortable 16-6 ahead, where before even 9-6 had seemed a touch harsh on the visitors. It proved a mortal wound to Montpellier, and the Sharks never looked back, running in five unanswered tries in the second half.

Montpellier came into this game having lost their last 35 matches away from home, an astonishing record even for one of the smaller French clubs. Relegation from the Top 14 has never been far away from the door.

This season though, they have a gleaming new stadium which Australia used as a base for their World Cup campaign, they have a little more cash, and a clutch of new signings and promising young players.

So it ought not to have been such a surprise at how well they fronted up to Sale's physical challenge. Despite having only 34 per cent of the first-half possession, the Héraults fought gamely, with Julien Picamoles - on as an early replacement for Fulgence Ouedraogo - turning over stacks of Sale possession on the fringes.

Montpellier did well at the line-outs too, nicking three out of nine of Sebastian Bruno's throws. Maybe they found Bruno's Franglais calls easier to decipher.

Either way, that stream of lost possession hindered any progress by the Sharks, whose backs looked livelier and whose forwards were streets ahead in the scrum, but who just could not find a way through Montpellier's white shirts.

The closest they came before Hodgson's try was courtesy of Hodgson's counter-attacking instincts. A return from another Sarramea kick was off-loded to Cueto, and then to Elvis Seveali'i before the ball was flung wide to Ben Foden.

Foden appeared to have done enough as he raced home through a tackle, but the TMO saw his right foot just nicking the touchline before the ball was plonked down in-goal.

Otherwise, it was a drab first half. Montpellier, with the wind mostly behind them, slammed the ball downfield through Olivier Sarramea and François Trinh-Duc. Hodgson used the wind to hold up and swirl any number of assorted high kicks and garryowens. The tactics worked for both teams, with Montpellier's line rarely under threat and the greenness of Foden at full-back often exposed, but with their own full-back Mark McHugh never looking comfortable either.

Only twice did Hodgson opt for profitable adventure: an inside pop to Chabal yielding a trademark 20m charge subsequently ruined by a clumsy knock-on, and another inside pop to Cueto delayed just a fraction too long for the winger to be able to cut through at full pace.

Motnpellier also had their moments. Rickus Lubbe and Picamoles combined to send the latter through the Sale defensive line like a crossbow bolt, and had Sebastian Buada not fumbled the offload, Montpellier might have snatched a lead.

Between minutes 16 and 18, a monumental defensive effort pushed Sale's attackers back from the 22 to the half-way line. 6-0 down after 20 minutes through two Hodgson penalties, the Heraults had clawed their way back to 6-6 just five minutes before half-time through two McHugh penalties and their sterling defensive efforts at the breakdown.

Then came another Hodgson penalty, then Hodgson's moment of magic, and the French heads went down, never to really come back up again.

Andrew Sheridan and Stuart Turner had been making mincemeat out of a beefy Montpellier front row all night, and once they were presented with an attacking scrum on 52 minutes, you couild see it coming. The first scrum was called at a penalty, and yielded another penalty. The second collapsed under Sale pressure. The third yielded another scrum as Richard Wigglesworth just failed to get to the line. The fourth yielded a free-kick, and Chabal tapped, ducked, and drove over. Hodgson converted to make it 23-6.

Two minutes later, the game was up, as Trinh-Duc's loose pass was picked off by Steve Hanley, Hodgson converting from under the posts for a 30-6 scoreline, and any pretence at resistance from Montpellier evaporated.

It quickly became one-way traffic, Sale eventually having 70 per cent of the second-half possession and their forwards finding it easier and easier to brush Montpellier's off the ball.

Replacement centre Chris Mayor barged through some flagging tackling for the bonus-point fourth try, with Hodgson making the only blot on his man-of-the-match copybook by missing the conversion.

Wigglesworth rounded off a cracking interplay between himself and the ubiquitous Cueto/Fernandez Lobbe support duo with five to go for the fifth, and then wriggled through some statuesque defence for the sixth try in the final minute. Lee Thomas converted both.

The scorers:

For Sale Sharks:

Tries: Hodgson, Chabal, Hanley, Mayor, Wigglesworth 2

Cons: Hodgson 3, Thomas 2

Pens: Hodgson 3

For Montpellier:

Pens: McHugh 2

Sale Sharks: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Mark Cueto, 13 Elvis Seveali'i, 12 Lee Thomas, 11 Steve Hanley, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Sébastien Chabal, 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Jason White, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Ignancio Fernandez Lobbe, 3 Stuart Turner, 2 Sebastien Bruno, 1 Andrew Sheridan

Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Benoît Bourrust, 18 Dean Schofield, 19 Nathan Bonner-Evans, 20 Sililo Martens, 21 Chris Mayor, 22 Chris Bell

Montpellier: 15 Mark McHugh, 14 Olivier Sarraméa, 13 Rickus Lubbe, 12 Grant Rees, 11 Frikkie Welsh, 10 Francois Trinh Duc, 9 Sébastien Buada, 8 Didier Chouchan, 7 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6 Sébastien Galtier, 5 Drickus Hancke, 4 Michel Macurdy, 3 Clément Baïocco, 2 Olivier Diomandé (c), 1 Philémon Toleafoa

Replacements: 16 Joan Caudullo, 17 Eugène Van Staden, 18 Mickaël Bert, 19 Louis Picamoles, 20 Julien Tomas, 21 Murphy Taele, 22 Fédérico Todeschini

Referee: Carlo Damasco (Italy)

Touch judges: Paulo Ventura (Italy), Stefano Marrama (Italy)

Assessor: Colin High (England)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
Argentina vs South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Preview
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , August 23
Toulon vs La Rochelle18:30
Bordeaux-Begles vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Montpellier vs GrenobleMontpellier vs Grenoble Preview
Bayonne vs Oyonnax18:30
Stade Francais vs Lyon20:45
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne vs Montpellier20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 23
Western Province vs LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
Sharks vs Cheetahs19:10
Friday , August 29
Pumas vs Sharks19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu vs AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Preview
Bay Of Plenty vs TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Preview
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato vs Taranaki19:35
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury vs Northland19:35
Friday , August 29
Wellington vs Manawatu09:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Blue Bulls 30 - 25 Eastern Province Kings
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Northland 35 - 5 WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Report
Counties Manukau 29 - 25 OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse 35 - 6 CastresToulouse vs Castres Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
South Africa 13 - 6 ArgentinaSouth Africa vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Clermont Auvergne 30 - 26 GrenobleClermont Auvergne vs Grenoble Report
Toulouse 20 - 19 Oyonnax
Brive 37 - 15 La Rochelle
Montpellier 16 - 19 Racing Metro ParisMontpellier vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Bordeaux-Begles 18 - 9 Lyon
Castres 22 - 25 Stade Francais
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Lions 60 - 19 Eastern Province KingsLions vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 41 - 17 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
Cheetahs 34 - 27 GriquasCheetahs vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Otago 28 - 14 North Harbour
Canterbury 48 - 9 AucklandCanterbury vs Auckland Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00