Montpellier 35

Connacht 29

With the clock in the red, French Top 14 side Montpellier held on to a six point lead as Connacht drove at their line in search of their fifth try in this enthralling Champions Cup game. The hosts had to fight all the way in this exciting encounter as the sides went in level at the break, after Connacht clawed back a 21 points to 0 deficit after 30 minutes.

With Connacht winning the corresponding game in the Sportsground back in November, this one was always going to go down to the wire. In that round one clash, Montpellier got on the scoresheet in the first three minutes and the script looked like repeating itself when Levan Chilachava raced onto a pass and touched down by that three minute mark this time around. This prompted a reaction as Connacht settled into the game and gave as good as they got, with captain Jarrad Butler and Bundee Aki in particular putting in some huge tackles early on.

Just as Connacht were growing into this game though Montpellier hit them with two converted tries in three minutes, both from winger Gabriel N’gandebe. To Connacht’s credit though, instead of dropping their heads as the second try went in on 28 minutes, they dug deep and started to play some of the most attacking, open rugby they have produced all season.

In the 35th minute Matt Healy got a ball out wide and had plenty to do before touching down. Straight from the kick off, Connacht were flying down the opposite wing and John Porch touched down with his finger tips from what seemed like an impossible angle. Carty’s successful conversion from the touchline put Connacht within a converted try. The away side then struck parity on the stroke of half time when Kieran Marmion was released, and he raced in under the posts.

Amazingly on the 44 minute mark, Connacht had secured a bonus point try when Kyle Godwin beat two defenders after taking a pass on the Montpellier 22. Montpellier were quick to respond with their fourth, which they converted after 52 minutes to nudge back into the lead. Connacht went toe to toe with the powerful French outfit and going into the final quarter they regained the lead through a Jack Carty penalty. Crucially though this was to be Connacht’s final score and when Montpellier got in for their fifth try of the day with three minutes remaining, a Connacht victory looked unlikely.

Connacht did what they did all day though and kept battling. John Porch bravely claimed the restart and the high tackle on him resulted in a Connacht penalty and a launch pad for a final effort at the Montpellier. Unfortunately, though the home side held on and won out on a 35 points to 29 scoreline.

So this result marks the end of Connacht’s Champions Cup season but their six outings in the competition showed that they are certainly not out of place in the top tier of European rugby. The challenge now turns back to the Pro14 and the visit of Cardiff to the Sportsground on the 15th of February – a must win fixture against their conference rivals (Get tickets here).

Connacht Scorers –

Tries: Matt Healy, John Porch, Kieran Marmion and Kyle Godwin

Penalties: Jack Carty (1)

Conversions: Jack Carty (3 from 4)

Connacht: T O’Halloran, J Porch, K Godwin, B Aki, M Healy, J Carty, K Marmion, P McAllister, D Heffernan, D Robertson-McCoy, J Maksymiw, G Thornbury, E Masterson, C Faianga’a, J Butler (c).

 

Replacements: J Murphy, D Buckley for McAllister (49), E McKeon for Materson (53), C Blade for Marmion (54), T Daly for O’Halloran (57m) N Murray for Maksymiw (58m), C Kenny for Robertson-McCoy( 63), J Murphy for Heffernan (68), Robertson-McCoy for Heffernan and C Fitzgerald for Carty (70).

Ireland international Kieran Marmion has recovered from a back injury to take his place on Connacht’s starting team for the Champions Cup clash away to Montpellier on Sunday (Kick off 3:15pm Irish Time).

The scrum half hasn’t played for Connacht since the win over Ospreys in the Sportsground at the beginning of November. Marmion’s inclusion sees him renew his half back partnership with fellow international Jack Carty.

Elsewhere in the backline, Kyle Godwin comes into the Connacht midfield to partner Bundee Aki. While in the back three Tiernan O’Halloran is named at fullback with John Porch and Connacht’s record try scorer Matt Healy on the wings.

In the forwards, hooker Dave Heffernan who was named in Andy Farrell’s first Six Nations squad during the week, starts alongside props Paddy McAllister and Dominic Robertson McCoy. In the second row Joe Maksymiw and Gavin Thornbury are both selected in the second row, with 20 year old Niall Murray among the replacements.

In the backrow, Eoghan Masterson comes in at blindside with Colby Fainga’a at openside and Captain Jarrad Butler at number 8.

Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We had a great win over Montpellier in the opening round but we are under no illusion that the return leg will be a huge challenge. We have picked a strong side and are aiming to win the game and regain some momentum ahead of an important block of games coming in the Pro14”.

“We are delighted to see Kieran Marmion back from injury. He has been out since November and has worked really hard to get back on the field. His experience alongside Jack Carty, will be a boost to us on Sunday”.

Connacht Matchday Squad V Montpellier (Sun 19 Dec, 3:15pm Irish Time)

(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion (1-8): Paddy McAllister, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Gavin Thornbury, Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).

Replacements: Jonny Murphy, Denis Buckley, Conor Kenny, Niall Murray, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Tom Daly.

The Connacht squad trained at The Sportsground this morning ahead of their final Heineken Champions Cup clash away to Montpellier in France on Sunday.
 
Despite missing out on qualification to the knock-out stages at the weekend, Andy Friend’s side will be looking to finish the campaign on a high before they head into a break for the start of the Six Nations.
 
The squad have been boosted by the return of a further number of players, with the likes of Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell and Peter Robb all training this week after their return from their respective injuries.
 
The side take on Montpellier at 3.15pm Irish time at the GGL Stadium this Sunday.
 

Situated in the enviable region of the South of France, Montpellier is a charming city steeped in history.
 
Impressive buildings and sun-drenched squares are the main attraction, while the white sandy beaches and lustrous mountains are not far away.
 
How to get there?

There are no direct flights to Montpellier Airport in the winter time, but there is a way to get there thanks to Ireland West Airport in Knock.

It is possible to fly from Ireland West to Toulouse via a stopover in Gatwick Airport, and once you land in Toulouse you can take a train to Montpellier.

Where to stay?

Montpellier is renowned for 17th and 18th century style mansions that can be enjoyed as accommodation. Due to the proximity of the city to the stadium, most people can enjoy a stay in the Place de al Comedie, the main square in Montpellier. There is accommodation for all budgets, from beautiful French mansions to self-catering apartments.

For those who wish to be within in walking distance to the stadium, the closest hotel is the Apart City Confort Ovalie and Clos de l’Herminier,which are both an 8 minute walk to the stadium.

City to Stadium

The city to the stadium is a 15-minute drive. Take Line 2 on the tram in the direction of Sabine Saint Jean de Vedas. There is a free matchday shuttle that brings you from the Sabines tram stop to the GGL stadium. Alternatively, you can walk from the Sabines stop to the stadium.

Tickets

Tickets can be purchased on the Montpellier website HERE.

Tickets in the ground are mostly seated, with some options of standing tickets. The cheapest tickets are behind the goals, while the most expensive are the Eden and Ellis park stands.

Stadium

Eating and drinking in the stadium is done using a pre-loaded card system. You can purchase this prior to the game. There is a wide selection of the bars and restaurants around the stadium.

Bars in the city

There are numerous fantastic authentic bars and restaurants around Montpellier. Be sure to try some of the local wine, Montpellier is the world’s largest wine region.

Los Parigos : a homely tapas bar that serves great wine, tapas and a homely atmosphere.

La Chistera : one of the most bustling bars in Montpellier and happens to be owned by none other than François Trinh-Duc.

O’Carolans and Fitzpatricks Pub: for a creamy Guinness before the game and some post-match Irish craic,

Food in the city

La Petit Jardin: Amazing food with a magical setting and views of the city’s cathedral.

L’Idee Savours: Family run restaurant with a warm comfortable atmosphere.

Burger et Blanquette: Casual and laidback burger restaurant.

Sightseeing

Montpellier is a great little compact city that is very easy to walk around. The tram service is an easy way to roam around the sights. The main points of interest in the city are:
Ag
Place de la Comedie: The tourist heart of Montpellier

Port du Peyrou: Famous Landmark Arch

Promenade of Peyrou: Louis XIV statue with amazing city views

Montpellier Cathedral: Dates back to 1536

Hiking and Wine tasting

Pic Saint-Loup is 30 minutes north of Montpellier, with incredible views of the vineyards, once you descend you can stop for a taste of the local wine, For those who want to experience wine tasting only, you can enjoy a wine tour of this area.

Beach

If you feel like some sea air and a Mediterranean dip, the beautiful beaches are 20 minutes away. The closest beaches are Carnon and Palavas-les-Flots. You can catch a taxi or combine getting the tram with the local bus to the different beaches.

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