Montpellier: Jake White's side celebrate their first-ever trophy. Adam Davy
Challenge Accepted

Disappointment for O'Shea and Quins as Montpellier edge Challenge Cup final

The 26-19 defeat was Conor O’Shea’s last game in charge before taking the reins of the Italian national team.

Montpellier 26-19 Harlequins

MONTPELLIER, FIRED BY a brace of tries from Australian full-back Jesse Mogg, sealed a first-ever trophy when they beat Harlequins 26-19 in the European Challenge Cup final on Friday.

Quins at first rode the heavyweight Montpellier pack, which boasted five South Africans, and former All Black out-half Nick Evans thrived off their ill-discipline to land three first-half penalties.

But a try in each half from former Brumbie Mogg, capped three times by the Wallabies, and the metronomic boot of South African fly-half Demetri Catrakilis, who amassed 16 points from four penalties and two conversions, were just enough to see off the London side despite Marlon Yarde’s late converted try and Ben Botica penalty.

The result ensured there was no fairytale ending to Conor O’Shea’s reign at Quins, the Irishman now moving on to coach Italy.

Evans got the scoreboard ticking over with an early penalty after a ruck infringement, but Catrakilis responded almost immediately.

In a cagey opening period, Evans saw a second effort come back off the upright as Quins took the game to Montpellier.

But the French side, coached by Jake White and boasting four members of the Springbok side he coached to 2007 World Cup glory in France, suddenly sprang into action with a fabulous try.

France Rugby European Challenge Cup The victory ensured Montpellier's first-ever title. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Uncapped South African lock Paul Willemse broke a tackle and drove into midfield before being brought down. The ball was recycled quickly and the ever-alert Frans Steyn spotted a rush defence and unleashed a huge pass to Mogg, just on the pitch for injured Benjamin Fall, on the wing.

Mogg swapped passes with Anthony Tuitavake to cross for a try in the corner that Catrakilis converted, the South African fly-half notching up his second penalty shortly after.

With the alarm bells ringing that the match might be running away from Quins, Evans pulled back a penalty after good harrying work from skipper Danny Care at a scrum and a third when Willemse needlessly pulled down a line-out.

Montpellier’s Fijian winger Timoci Nagusa had a try disallowed early in the second period, called back by Irish referee John Lacey for a penalty, although Evans badly skewed his resulting kick at the posts amid a deafening hail of whistles.

But the Top 14 side, sitting second in the French league, got their due rewards after several minutes of pressure.

Replacement scrum-half Benoit Paillauge chipped to the corner for Mogg, who outjumped Wales centre Jamie Roberts to cleanly take the ball and touch down for his second try, Catrakilis making no mistake with the extras.

Harlequins’ Dutch-born Scotland winger Tim Visser fluffed a similar chip from Mike Brown at the other end of Lyon’s Grand Stade to sum up their lack of attacking edge.

Catrakilis continued his kicking masterclass with a fourth penalty before Yarde did well to scoop up a delicate Brown grubber kick and cross the whitewash for a try converted by Botica, who also nailed a penalty to set up a nerve-racking final five minutes.

But it all turned out to be too late as Montpellier held on not only for a maiden title but also to deny Quins a fourth Challenge Cup success after previous victories in 2001, 2004 and 2011.

© – AFP 2016

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