Montpellier fought back from 21-0 down to draw 21-21 at home to London Irish in a result that ends the Exiles’ European campaign.
Converted tries from lock Adam Coleman, back-row Juan Martin Gonzalez and hooker Agustin Creevy had put the Exiles into a commanding position as they looked to secure a place in the Challenge Cup knockouts, but Montpellier responded well to salvage a draw.
The French side’s second-half tries came via Thomas Darmon, Vincent Giudicelli and Cobus Reinach, with the South African inspiring their fightback.
Both teams went into the match looking to bounce back from defeats in round three, with Montpellier losing 35-29 at Ospreys and Irish falling 28-14 at home to Stormers.
Irish started with real purpose and were soon ahead. They took advantage of a powerful maul and lock Coleman came crashing off the back of it to score. Paddy Jackson converted to make it 7-0 after only six minutes.
Montpellier had chances of their own to get some points on the board, but early on they shunned all of them for scrums or kicks to touch to get themselves back in the game.
But Irish’s defence was well organised and ferocious and kept the French side, who lacked real accuracy, at bay in the robust and aggressive early exchanges.
London Irish crossed for their second try when a quick tap-penalty by scrum-half Joe Powell put openside flanker Gonzalez over for the try, which was converted by Jackson to give the Premiership side a 14-0 lead at half-time.
After the break, it was more of the same when Irish forced a powerful and organised driving maul over Montpellier’s line and hooker Creevy crashed over for their third try.
Jackson added his third conversion to make it 21-0 and leave the French side reeling.
🔚 Montpellier fight back to end London Irish's European campaign. pic.twitter.com/OYshgPAfa6
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) January 22, 2023
But the home side hit back as centre Darmon crossed for a try midway through the second half which was converted by Louis Carbonel to make it 21-7.
Montpellier narrowed the lead further as fly-half Jackson was yellow carded for a professional foul and replacement hooker Giudicelli crashed over for the try converted by Carbonel.
Replacement Reinach then added Montpellier’s third try in the 76th minute and Carbonel made no mistake with the conversion to level the scores.