Montpellier 14 – Leinster 23
Well there you have it, 6 rounds done and Leinster has secured the top seed spot and completed a clean sweep against the three strongest teams in the completion!
For supporters of the boys in blue, there was always a bit of wariness going into this match, after all it was against the French heavyweights who are riding high at the summit of the Top14 table. After today’s match, the Leinster squad and supporters alike should feel very confident going into the quarter final which of course will be held at the Aviva stadium. We won’t know who our opponent is until the end of the round 6 games have completed tomorrow but after today’s display in Montpellier, Leinster can take on anyone and win right now.
The game started as expected, with the home side putting on maximum pressure throughout the early exchanges. After some great ball handling and strong forward play from Montpellier, it looked like they would score early on. However, once Leinster got their hands on the ball, they moved quickly up field and in typical fashion scored the first try of the match through Ross Byrne after 4 minutes of play. In not so typical fashion however, Byrne missed the conversion, only his 3rd miss at goal in 25 kicks this season. It was also Ross Byrne’s first try since joining the senior squad.
Montpellier started fumbling the ball, knocking on and a threw a couple of forward passes which allowed Leinster to keep pressure on them and build their attacking platform. Unfortunately, Leinster started making some blunders of their own and started giving Montpellier a lot of let offs. However, on the 19 minute mark, Montpellier got penalised in their 22 and Byrne kicked three points to send up 8 nil ahead.
Montpellier found unstoppable form straight after the restart and managed to get themselves an attacking line out 5 metres from our try line. Their powerful pack set up a rolling maul which Leinster couldn’t keep from crossing our try line. Aaron Cruden added the extras to bring the score to 7-8 after 24 minutes.
Montpellier continued to grow into the game and 13 minutes later they found themselves with another attacking line out deep inside our 22. Leinster prepared for another driving maul from the home side but instead, Montpellier decided to create quick ball and performed a brilliant switch play to get them in for their second try which Cruden converted. This gave the home side the lead at the end of the first half, 14-8.
After uncharacteristically letting in two tries in the first half, I’m sure Leo and Co had a lot to say at half time to get the lads refocused for a tough second half. It clearly worked as Leinster came out a lot more structured and dominant. 6 minutes in and Henshaw got Leinster on the scoreboard with a lovely try out on the right wing. Byrne couldn’t add the extras but now Leinster were back within a point of Montpellier after 46 minutes.
Three minutes later, Ross Byrne stepped up to the tee for a penalty kick which he converted to get us ahead on the scoreboard, 14-16 after 49 minutes.
Three minutes later again, Leinster were back in Montpellier’s 22 and after a lovely pass from James Ryan, Sean Cronin dived over for Leinster’s third try, which was converted by Byrne to make it 14-23 after 53 minutes.
The game went on to finish 14-23 as Leinster managed to deny the home side a single point for 40 minutes!
This match looked like it could go either way in the first half but once the second half started, it was clear that there could only be one winner. Leinster played the heads up rugby and kept their heads about them to see out a huge victory against a team desperate to qualify out of Pool 3.
Leinster were 6 points down at half time, but 13 minutes into the second half, they were 9 points ahead! They also showed real grit by dominating the mid field which nullified most of Montpellier’s endeavours to enter our 22. It’s clear evidence of this team’s confidence, belief, and their never give up ruthless attitude. They certainly know how to win matches, that’s clear, but the manner in which they can stay composed and close out tight games is incredible. Montpellier threw the kitchen sink at Leinster in the second half and any momentary lapses in defensive structures or concentration could have quickly resulted in a loss for the boys in blue. However, you could see that synergy among the ranks as the group played for each other and enabled them to control almost all aspects of the game. To keep a juggernaut side like Montpellier scoreless in the second half on their home soil is completely unforgivable for them, but an absolutely incredible achievement for Leinster.
Great things are happening in the Leinster camp and I think the best is yet to come. After what Leinster has already encountered in this “group of death”, I honestly can’t see who can truly challenge Leinster if they keep up their sublime form. Much like Saracens last year, its very hard to look past Leinster this season!
Our home quarter final will be played over the last weekend of March. BRING IT ON!!