European Challenge Cup
Montpellier down brave Bristol
October 10, 2008
Bristol's Greg Barden is tackled by Montpellier's Ollie Smith
© Getty Images
Montpellier made a winning start to their European Challenge Cup campaign with a 33-15 Pool 2 victory over Premiership strugglers Bristol at Stade Yves du Manoir.
Unlike other French sides who have opted to blood second-string talent for the European competition, Montpellier named a host of internationals in their starting line-up while Richard Hill utilised his squad following a poor start to the domestic season.
But it was the visitors who started the match by far the healthier as an opportunist break from Tom Arscott saw full-back Vunga Lilo enter the attack at pace before handing out for Lee Robinson to cross in the corner in the first minute. However, that lead was cut to two points when Fédérico Todeschini sent over a penalty, before a clinical series of attacks looked to stir the hosts into life.
Against the run of play Bristol hit back with a free-flowing move that started from their own 22. This time veteran centre Kevin Maggs broke out before passing to partner Greg Barden, who made the right call by offloading without forcing the play, allowed 21-year-old Iain Greave to crash over and open a 12-3 lead for Bristol.
Finally, on 13 minutes the sparse home crowd had something to cheer as a smart backs move came right for France hopeful Francois Trinh-Duc to slide in and cut the gap - Todeschini adding a sublime conversion. And that was the perfect tonic for Montpellier as their powerful loose forward Mamuka Gorgodze continued his strong showing by barging off Barden 20 metres from the whitewash.
The Georgian then drew the final defender before slipping a ball to scoring wing Thierry Brana, which moved Montpellier ahead at 17-15 on 23 minutes before a lean spell saw a Todeschini penalty the only other action before half-time. The Argentine kept the scoreboard ticking over on 50 minutes with another sweetly struck penalty goal as all of Bristol's early fire seemed to have been extinguished.
Hill's side found themselves even further behind four minutes later with another Todeschini place kick hurting what now seemed a losing bonus-point cause as sustained home territory began to tell. The hosts' third try soon arrived when substitute hooker Mickael Ladhuie touched down for an opportunist score with six minutes remaining.
However, the bonus-point win did not come for the Top 14 outfit as Bristol were left counting the loss of finisher Arscott due to a neck injury, which adds to their worrying run of 13 games without a win.
Montpellier: Trinh Duc, Alcalde, Smith, Mirande, Brana, Todeschini, Marshall, Petit, Rofes, Baiocco, Macurdy, Hancke, Britz, Gorgodze, Vallee.
Replacements: Sarramea for Trinh Duc (67), A. Tomas for Marshall (71), Ladhuie for Rofes (61), Toleafoa for Baiocco (41), Bost for Britz (52), Goze for Vallee (66).
Not Used: Van Niekerk.
Bristol: Lilo, Robinson, Barden, Maggs, T. Arscott, Jarvis, Thomas, Irish, Blaney, Bracken, Sambucetti, Sidoli, Salter, Grieve, Pennycook.
Replacements: Beveridge for T. Arscott (66), Clarke for Bracken (25).
Not Used: Regan, Attwood, Phillips, Ashwin, Brew.
Ref: Andy McPherson (SRFU).
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