LONDON (Reuters) – Centre Johan Goosen finished off an excellent team try as French side Montpellier overcame a forward pounding to edge Leicester Tigers from England 18-17 in the final of the European Challenge Cup at Twickenham on Friday.
Wet conditions in the English capital ensured it would be forward-based tactical battle with the boot, but when Montpellier finally decided to keep the ball in hand they were rewarded with Goosen’s decisive score to go with an earlier try from wing Vincent Rattez.
Leicester were much the better in the set-piece and used their powerful maul to score two tries and force two yellow cards from their opponents, who played for 20 minutes with 14 men, as lock Harry Wells and number eight Jasper Wiese barged over from close-range.
Montpellier secured their second title in the competition in front of 10,000 supporters.
On Saturday, French sides La Rochelle and Toulouse will contest the Champions Cup final at the same venue.
“We’re very pleased to work really hard in a tough season and come away with a trophy,” Goosen told BT Sport. “We’ve got a hell of a group here who work very hard so it’s awesome to win this. We tried to approach this one by playing with no fear.”
Montpellier struck the first major blow as Rattez showed some neat footwork to dribble a grubber-kick towards the try-line and then dive on the ball ahead of Leicester centre Matías Moroni.
But Leicester were dominant in the maul and following a fourth penalty after repeated infringements, referee Andrew Brace sent Montpellier number eight Alexandre Becognee to the sin-bin.
The English side immediately used their pack again for another driving maul that ended in a try for Wells and a 10-10 scoreline at halftime.
Leicester turned down three kickable penalties in favour of their maul, which led to more infringements, a yellow card for Montpellier captain Guilhem Guirado and a try for Wiese.
Scrum-half Benoit Paillaugue landed a penalty, before a rare attack with their backs from the French side resulted in a second team try via Goosen, after excellent breaks by replacement wing Gabriel N’Gandebe and centre Jan Serfontein.
“We haven’t been in a final for eight years, but we got here and we feel like we’ve moved forward a lot,” Leicester captain Tom Youngs said.
“We came here to win of course and I felt like everyone gave everything they had out there. We’ll learn from this and we’ll keep going.
“Everyone knows what we’ve been through in recent years as a club and there were some young boys out there tonight who will grow immensely from this experience.”
(Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Pritha Sarkar)