Leinster in the box seat for an Aviva Stadium semi-final after victory in Montpellier
MONTPELLIER 14 LEINSTER 23
Leinster did what they couldn’t do three times last season by winning in France to sweep Pool Three of The Champions Cup at the Altrad Stadium this afternoon.
The electric James Lowe exchanged passes with Jamison Gibson-Park before a searing surge from Lowe set up Ross Byrne for an easy opening try in the fifth minute.
Leinster were forcing the French into mistakes and Byrne was kicking intelligently to keep the home side penned in.
Uncharacteristic sloppiness at Leinster’s maul led to a turnover by lock Konstantine Mikautadze and counter from which Timoci Nagusa's try-scoring pass to Ruan Pienaar was deemed forward for a real let-off.
The Blues were dominating off the back of a sure scrum and flanker Kelian Galletier’s slow retreat offered a penalty which Byrne struck for 8-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Montpelier were able to force a 5-metre lineout from Aaron Cruden’s penalty-to-touch and Bismarck du Plessis was on hand to claim the mauling try converted by Cruden to make it a one-point game in the 25th minute.
Tight-head Tadhg Furlong’s illegal rip allowed Cruden to secure another 5-metree scrum for Yacouba Camara to finish a well-worked move from another maul, Cruden converting for 14 unanswered points by the interval.
It was the same again as Leinster hummed early, the forwards driving patiently and Robbie Henshaw stepping inside Nemani Nadolo to make it 14-13 in the 47th minute.
The strong work of Josh van der Flier and Henshaw created the simple opportunity for Byrne to put Leinster 16-14 ahead.
The offloading of James Ryan and Dan Leavy, the kick by Jamison Gibson-Park and the chase of Lowe forced a 5-metre lineout.
From there, Leinster gave Montpellier a dose of their own medicine for Sean Cronin to touchdown, Byrne’s extras making it a two-score game in the 54th minute.
Leinster looked on the verge of the bonus when giving away a penalty and compounding it with two more, Devin Toner eventually stealing the ball at another ominous 5-metre lineout for Montpellier.
That was the moment that sealed Leinster’s magnificent victory.