At the intensive level which the Heineken Cup involves, those ten minutes were all that it took for a one point margin to leap to twenty two. Inspired by home fly half Francois Trinh-Duc, Montpellier ran in tries from Trinh-Duc himself, 'Jim' Nagusa and Julien Tomas, all converted by Martin Bustas Moyano, who ended the afternoon with a '7 out of 8' record from the kicking tee.
The Sharks started and ended brightly, drawing first blood when Tom Brady intercepted and ran the ball out fully 50 metres down the right. The ball was switched inside and Danny Cipriani produced a masterly diagonal kick for Mark Cueto to score in the corner in the third minute.
Three penalties took Montpellier to 9-5 up after 20 minutes, but Rob Miller narrowed the gap in the 26th minute when, following a successful lineout and a Mark Jennings break, Montpellier were penalised for not releasing.
The predominantly young Sharks backs made the most of the opportunities that came their way, but the forwards had a difficult afternoon against the mighty force wearing black shirts numbered 1 to 8. On 28 minutes, there was a 'what might have been' moment when Miller's penalty kick was adjudged to have passed over the posts and disallowed, shades of McAllister at the same end on the Sharks' last visit to the stadium.
There was one more score before half time, a Bustas Moyano penalty on 34 minutes after Tony Buckley hadn't rolled away, but the home rolling mauls continued to pose a real threat.
There was just a point between the sides again after 43 minutes when Aliki went over the top, for Miller to penalise. Then followed those decisive ten minutes.The Montpellier pack pushed Sharks off their own ball to pave the way for the first try. John Beattie picked the ball up at his feet at No 8, broke to the openside and gave Trinh Duc a clear run to the line 10 metres away.
The try sparked the home charge. Two beautiful chip kicks by Trinh-Duc over the Sharks' defensive line conjured up tries for Timoci Nagusa and Julien Tomas on 55 and 60 minutes respectively. His first chip kick allowed Nagusa to show off his power and pace to reach the left corner and then Tomas was given a brilliant inside pass to run the length of the 22 to score under the posts.
The score had become 33-11 in seemingly no time at all. The rain continued to pour heavily but despite the score, Sale Sharks continued to show spirit and enterprise, and this will have been a good learning experience for David Seymour's young troops. With seven minutes to go, a home lineout was snaffled by Richie Vernon, who stole through to score in the corner. Miller sent over an excellent conversion.
Plenty of good moments, a sound performance but fifteen points in it at the final whistle.
Sharks' Head Coach Bryan Redpath said after the game, "Montpellier have been in the top five or six in France for a few years, they're a huge challenge, In Europe, you have to win your home games and we did that last weekend. We came here and gave a reasonable account of ourselves, but didn't have enough firepower to compete.
"We conceded ten points when play switched from their 22 to ours - a converted try and a penalty. We could have crumbled at 33-11 but we didn't. We're not too downhearted, and will learn from this game."
Scoring: (Montpellier first) 0-5, 3-5, 6-5, 9-5,9-8, 12-8 (Half Time) 12-11, 19-11, 26-11, 33-11, 33-18
Squad: 15.Rob Miller, 14.Tom Brady, 13.Will Addison, 12.Mark Jennings, 11.Mark Cueto, 10.Danny Cipriani, 9.Cillian Willis, 1.Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 2.Joe Ward, 3.Tony Buckley, 4.Fraser McKenzie, 5.Kearnan Myall, 6.James Gaskell, 7.David Seymour (capt.), 8.Mark Easter.
Replacements: 16.Tommy Taylor for Ward (H/T), 17.Ross Harrison for Lewis Roberts (54), 18.Vadim Cobilas for Buckley (54), 19. Richie Vernon for Gaskell (57), 20.James Doyle for Seymour (61), 21.Nathan Fowles for Willis (61), 22. Nick Macleod for Jennings (71), 23.Johnny Leota for Cueto (54)
Next up for Sale Sharks in the Heineken Cup is Toulon at home, when Andrew Sheridan returns to the club along with Jonny Wilkinson and the rest of their star studded squad. Tickets are now available, book yours by calling 08444 994 994 or book your tickets online through the Sale Sharks tickets page.
|Montpellier Score Card|
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|Sale Sharks Score Card|