Montpellier 33-18 Sale Sharks, Heineken Cup
Montpellier dispatch the Sharks
October 21, 2012
Montpellier's Fulgence Ouedraogo vies with Sale's Fraser McKenzie
© Getty Images
Montpellier grabbed three second-half tries and downed the Sharks 33-18 in France on Sunday.
The Sharks had only trailed 12-8 at half-time, with Mark Cueto touching down for the only try, but they had no answer to the brilliance of Francois Trinh Duc in the second period. The France fly-half scored his side's first try on 51 minutes before two moments of brilliance set up another two scores in a decisive 10-minute burst.
Trinh Duc twice deftly kicked over the Sharks line, the first allowing Timoci Nagusa to race over, before the outside half re-gathered his next kick and expertly spotted Julien Tomas to score. That left Sale, who won a tense opener 34-33 against the Cardiff Blues, with too much to do over the final 20 minutes although Richie Vernon did grab a late consolation try.
Sharks boss Bryan Redpath made eight changes from the side that grabbed their sole success of the season against the Blues, but he saw his pack torn to pieces at the scrum. Redpath had new coaching consultant John Mitchell alongside him in the stands, but by the end they were both left wondering how to counteract the power of the home forwards.
The rain fell from almost start to finish and conditions were difficult for handling rugby, but Sale shocked their hosts with a brilliant try after only four minutes. The Montpellier forwards drove deep into the Sale 22, but Georgian back row forward Mamuka Gorgodze had the ball ripped away from his grasp by the combined efforts of Fraser McKenzie and Joe Ward.
Ward then launched a raid up the right wing by releasing Tom Brady, who sped all the way up to half-way. The ball came back quickly to Sale scrum-half Cillian Willis at the ruck and he fed Danny Cipriani. The former England outside half had a full line outside him, but immediately saw Cueto completely unmarked on the left wing. Cipriani's cross-field kick was inch-perfect and allowed Cueto to gather on the bounce and score his first try of the season.
Full-back Rob Miller was unable to add the conversion, but he managed to hit the mark with a 26th-minute penalty to keep his side very much in the hunt in a tight first half. Montpellier used the boot of Argentinian Martin Bustos Moyana to gather their first-half points and he kicked four out of five penalty shots to give the French Top 14 team a 12-8 interval lead.
The second half saw the home side increase their forward dominance and pick up three tries to speed to a comfortable win. Trinh Duc came into his own and two wonderful pieces of skill from him completely opened up the Sale defence. Both involved inch-perfect chips over the top of the Sale defensive line and both led to long-range scores.
It was Trinh Duc himself who scored the first try, waltzing over after the Sale scrum had been pushed off their own ball and Scottish number eight John Beattie picked up and fed his outside half. The first chip from Trinh Duc paved the way for Nagusa to show off his power and pace and then the outside half re-gathered his own kick before beautifully switching back inside to his half back partner Tomas who raced the length of the 22 to score.
All three tries were converted by Bustos Moyana and at 33-11 it seemed a formality for Montpellier to get the bonus point. To their credit, though, Sale kept fighting and hit back with a 74th-minute try from replacement back row Vernon when he picked up the pieces at the end of a line-out in the home 22 and crossed in the right corner. Miller added a brilliant touchline conversion, but it was back down to earth with a bump after the euphoria of the previous weekend.
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