Stade prevail in thriller
April 8, 2011
Hugo Southwell scored Stade Francais' first try
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Stade Francais booked their place in the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-finals with a 32-28 victory over their rivals Montpellier at the Stade Charlety on Friday.
The game was a must-win for Michael Cheika's side, who are out of touch with the Heineken Cup places in the Top 14 and relying on European success to add colour to another disappointing season. They now face Clermont Auvergne, who defeated La Rochelle in Thursday's match.
The home side scored tries through Hugo Southwell, Tom Palmer and Antoine Burban while referee Alan Lewis, on Friday omitted from the panel for the Rugby World Cup, awarded a penalty try.
Montpellier had surged ahead thanks to an early effort by Dimitri Pelo and the collective kicking exploits of Beneoit Paillaugue and Raphael Lagarde but faded in the second-half.
Stade enjoyed the better of the early exchanges thanks to a raking kick from Southwell and chip and chase from Lionel Beauxis, but the home side were stung by two scores in quick succession. Paillaugue slotted a simple penalty on seven minutes after a mistake by Ollie Phillips had allowed Pelo to step his way towards the line and the winger scored the game's first try only two minutes later, when a dire tackle by Beauxis opened the door.
Paillaugue converted and added a penalty to open up a 13-point lead after as many minutes and Stade were unable to take a bite out of that lead when a dismal lineout inside the Montpellier 22 wasted a hard-won penalty opportunity.
A silly penalty from Pierre Rabadan further dented their hopes as Paillaugue added his third penalty on 21 minutes and the scrum-half went close to bagging Montpellier's second try soon after, gathering his own kick ahead only to be swallowed up by Stade winger Djibril Camara.
Montpellier carved the hosts up once again following a hack downfield by Julien Dupuy, but a stroke of luck allowed Southwell to drag his side back into the contest. A breathtaking offload by Marc Giraud kept a sweeping move by the visitors alive but Southwell profited as the ball went loose, breaking 80 metres downfield to score under the posts after 26 minutes.
Dupuy slotted the conversion and Stade were celebrating their second try only three minutes later as Palmer followed up a snappy break by Phillips, who had been sent flying along his wing following a quick tap by Sergio Parisse. Dupuy was off target with the extras but Montpellier suffered a blow as Paillaugue was forced off with a knock.
Lagarde took over the kicking duties to make it 19-12 five minutes out from the break and despite the best efforts of Phillips, who contributed another strong break, it remained that way.
Eight minutes into the second-half Lagarde extended his side's lead, but the visitors should have been playing against 14 men for 10 minutes after Rodrigo Roncero halted the progress of Fabien Rofes with a cynical trip. Beauxis responded with three points of his own on 50 minutes thanks to a long-range kick.
Southwell came within inches of a second score only to be denied by a toe in touch but Stade were immediately back on the offensive when Montpellier coughed up a skewed lineout. The home pack put the shove on at the scrum and with Parisse controlling at the base, the referee awarded a penalty try.
Beauxis converted to level the scores with 25 minutes remaining but Stade kept the pressure on to bag their fourth try. Repeated pick and gos by the forwards sucked in the Montpellier defence and Stade whipped the ball out to expose a five on two, Burban coasting in. Beauxis was again accurate with the extras but Stade gave away another penalty to the boot of Lagarde to make it a four-point game.
Parisse let his side down by following a cynical shove on Lagarde with some lip, allowing the fly-half a simple shot at goal to make it 29-28 just after the hour mark, but Beauxis rewarded another dominant scrum by extending his side's advantage. Montpellier threw the kitchen sink at their hosts in the dying moments but came up short, with one final effort at the scrum deciding this one in favour of the Parisians.
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