London’s Harlequins came back from a 3-12 deficit to defeat Montpellier 41-18 in their opening European Rugby Challenge Cup game.
Montpellier, coached by Jake White, looked strong – dominating the first 30 minutes of the game. White is currently the bookies favourite to succeed Stuart Lancaster’s role at England Rugby, recently claiming he could win a World Cup with England. However, despite White’s coaching talent, Conor O’Shea’s Harlequins eased passed Montpellier scoring six tries (O’Shea has also been linked to the England job too).
In the 26th minute Harlequins played lacklustre rugby and it showed – already down 3-9. After losing a penalty at the scrum, the merciless boot of Benoit Paillaugue meant Quins were more than a converted try down in the 30th minute. However, the Londoners managed to turn the momentum after Luke Wallace scored a try bringing the score to 8-12. After Montpellier’s Mikheil Nariashvili received a yellow card for a cynical play, Nick Easter put Harlequins in the lead scoring a try off the back of a maul. Nick Evans safely converted the try putting Quins in the lead 15-12 before the halftime break.
After halftime Harlequins looked strong, with Jack Clifford immediately scoring Quins a third try. This time off of a rolling maul. Evans once again converted making the score 22-12. Harlequins would score 3 more tries in the second half, playing good attacking rugby. After Harlequins conceded 3 points, captain Danny Care struck back with a try, making the score 27-15.
Montpellier would score another penalty, and their last points of the game, before good passing play led to Ollie Lindsay-Hague to score Harlequins’ 5th try of the game. England Rugby captain, Chris Robshaw, scored the final try for Harlequins meaning the whole backrow had scored by the end of the game – final score 41-18.
Such a strong performance surely makes Harlequins favourites to win Pool 3 in the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The score-line showed the benefits of a strong backrow in European rugby. If they are able to beat the out-of-form Cardiff Blues on 19 November, coming out on-top of Pool 3 is likely for Harlequins.
With Sale Sharks and Gloucester also in European Rugby Challenge Cup, as well as Edinburgh, there is some stiff competition in Europe’s second tier rugby championship. Currently, Harlequins are the favourites to win the whole tournament, with good odds at Betfect.
Images from BBC News and the Daily Mail.