Pienaar inspires Ulster to win over Montpellier
October 19, 2013
Montpellier's Timoci Nagusa goes for the high ball © Getty Images
Cardiff Blues produced a stunning Heineken Cup upset after substitute Gareth Davies' late try floored European champions Toulon at the Arms Park.
Just six days after the Blues leaked 44 points and were demolished by Exeter, they responded magnificently to revive their hopes of progressing from Pool Two. Davies struck two minutes from time following a blistering Cory Allen break, while Wales star Leigh Halfpenny kicked 11 points and Rhys Patchell slotted an early long-range penalty for a gripping 19-15 result.
Jonny Wilkinson booted five penalties for Toulon, yet they were unable to thwart a resilient and committed Blues outfit. The home side did enough to stay in touch during a game of considerable ebb and flow - it was the first Heineken Cup match played on an artificial surface - before Davies pounced.
The try had its origins in a scintillating break by Blues centre Allen, before Davies skipped past Wilkinson and Maxime Mermoz and grounded possession despite a last-gasp tackle by Toulon scrum-half Frederic Michalak. Halfpenny added the extras, and there was not enough time left for Toulon to claw their way back, meaning the Blues could celebrate an outstanding victory.
Ulster secured one of the most memorable away Heineken Cup wins as they comprehensively beat last season's quarter-finalists Montpellier 25-8 in southern France.
Andrew Trimble crossed for Ulster's only try on 11 minutes before Ruan Pienaar paved the way for victory with 15 points from his boot, with Paddy Jackson also adding five points. Ulster had waited 15 matches in the Heineken Cup to beat a French side on their own soil when they edged Castres 9-8 to reach the last-eight last season, but this was a far more impressive triumph to show how much they have grown.
Not only did this win move Ulster two points clear of Leicester Tigers - who they beat last week - in Pool Five, but it also prevented Montpellier a point at their own Yves du Manoir stadium. The French side were in good form heading into the match having opened their own European campaign with a useful away win over Benetton Treviso while they sit level on points at the head of Top 14 with Toulon and Toulouse. They were also unbeaten at home this season but trailed into half-time after Trimble's try.
Jack McGrath's first Heineken Cup try lifted Leinster to their second pool win as they beat a bruising Castres Olympique side 19-7 at the RDS.
Traditionally poor travelers in this tournament, the reigning French Top 14 champions leaked three penalties to Jimmy Gopperth before a converted try from Rory Kockott gave them a shot in the arm before the interval.
But Castres crucially failed to turn pressure into points in the third quarter and with centre Remi Lamerat in the sin-bin, McGrath wrestled free to grab the game's decisive score in the 62nd minute. Gopperth converted and tagged on a fourth penalty before Castres suffered a second sin-binning in the closing stages - replacement scrum half Julien Tomas seeing yellow for a succession of crooked feeds.
Munster got their Heineken Cup campaign back on track with a 26-10 win over Gloucester at Thomond Park but the home side failed to secure the all-important additional bonus point.
The Cherry and Whites made plenty of pre-game headlines with their raft of changes from the side that beat Perpignan last week but they put in a committed performance. And it was the away side who stunned Thomond Park in the opening exchanges when Charlie Sharples darted over in the right corner for the first try of the match. But with Ronan O'Gara now retired, it is Munster's new No. 10 who kept the scoreboard ticking over as Ian Keatley slotted nine points to give the home side the lead. Damien Varley then burrowed over before half-time and Munster went into the break 16-10 to the good.
Keatley added a further penalty in the 65th minute and two minutes later, Munster had their second try. It was worth the wait as Johne Murphy collected a cross-kick and went over in the corner and with the conversion, the Irish side went into a 26-10 lead and that was how it remained for the rest of the match.
Mike Tindall battles with Niall Ronan © Getty Images
The Scarlets are still unbeaten in the Heineken Cup as they battled to a 26-26 draw with Racing Metro at Parc Y Scarlets.
The Parisian's ill-discipline let them down in the first-half as they had both Dimitri Szarzewski and Fabrice Estebanez sin-binned and the Scarlets made them pay - Scott Williams and Rhodri Williams, both try-scorers last weekend against Harlequins, crossed for the home side while Rhys Priestland added a further ten points with the boot. Scarlets went into the break 20-10 to the good, with Wenceslas Lauret grabbing Racing's score, and it was the away side who crossed the whitewash first in the second 40 when Masi Matadigo went over to reduce the deficit to three points.
Both fly-halves - Rhys Priestland and Jonathan Sexton - then traded penalties and going into the final play of the game, the teams were locked in a draw. And with the clock ticking down, Racing thought they had won it as Wenceslas burrowed over but the try was disallowed with Sexton knocking on in the build-up.
Racing Metro's Adrien Plante tries to halt Rhys Priestland © Getty Images
Connacht's slim hopes of qualifying from Pool Three in the Heineken Cup were resurrected in Parma where they saw off European whipping boys Zebre 33-6 in Italy.
There was no bonus point to take home to Galway, but there was plenty for Pat Lam to savour as his troops climbed level on points with Saracens, who were beaten at home by Toulouse the night before. George Naoupu and Mata Fifita scored a try in each half for Connacht, while Dan Parks did the rest, registering 23 points with his trusty right boot.
For Zebre, Luciano Orquera kicked all their points, but they failed to register so much as a losing bonus point on yet another failed adventure for the Italians.
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