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Montpellier snatch pulsating victory over Connacht

PA

Connacht came within metres of a late match-winning try but Montpellier held on to win a pulsating Heineken Champions Cup clash 35-29 at the GGL Stadium.

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With both teams out of quarter-final contention, they threw caution to the wind and produced a nine-try thriller which was decided by winger Yvan Reilhac’s 77th-minute try.

Connacht had the momentum at half-time despite trailing 21-0 at one stage thanks to seven-pointers from Levan Cilachava and Gabriel N’gandebe. The Irish province produced a dazzling 10-minute spell, either side of the break, that saw them reel off four tries.

Matt Healy, John Porch and Kieran Marmion brought them level before Kyle Godwin’s 43rd-minute effort made it 26-21. A Jack Carty penalty still had Connacht leading late on, yet Reilhac completed his second half brace to claim third place for Montpellier in Pool 5.

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Connacht’s porous defence let them down as Montpellier dominated the opening half hour. Attacking from a close-in ruck, Georgian prop Cilachava got past Eoghan Masterson to touch down in the third minute.

Although captain Jarrad Butler led Connacht’s determined response, they fell further behind in the 23rd minute when tricky winger N’gandebe evaded the clutches of both Tiernan O’Halloran and Healy to go in under the posts.

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Montpellier let their footballing skills do the talking five minutes later, Handre Pollard and Reilhac both kicking through before full-back Johan Goosen retrieved possession near the Connacht line. Quick ruck ball allowed N’gandebe to beat the first defender and crash over.

Yet, as the interval approached, Connacht made timely inroads. Montpellier were suddenly caught for numbers on the left and returning scrum half Marmion and Godwin combined to send winger Healy scampering over.

Try number two followed from a Masterson interception, the ball being moved wide for Australian Porch to finish acrobatically in the right corner. Carty converted and also tagged on the extras to Marmion’s score, set up by Bundee Aki cleverly drawing in three defenders.

Into the second half, Carty’s terrific pass put centre Godwin through to make it 26 points without reply. Montpellier hit back with their own bonus point score soon after, a Goosen kick bouncing up favourably for Reilhac to run in behind the posts.

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South African star Pollard’s conversion was cancelled out by Carty’s well-struck 57th-minute penalty, and Montpellier’s decision to then turn down a simple three points almost cost them as Connacht survived some set-piece pressure.

The visitors were struggling for territory, though, and were not helped by loose kicking and an under-fire lineout. It was Pollard’s midfield break which inspired Montpellier, and lock Nico Janse van Rensburg was able to float a pass out for Reilhac to go over in the corner.

Pollard’s excellent conversion put six points between them and despite van Rensburg seeing yellow for taking out Porch in the air, his team-mates won a last-gasp turnover to send Connacht to the bottom of the table.

PA

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Shaylen 2 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 8 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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