Glasgow Warriors 22-29 Montpellier

Glasgow Warriors’ hopes of progressing to the European Rugby Champions Cup knockout stages were left hanging by a thread, after suffering an agonising 29-22 defeat to Montpellier at Scotstoun.Huw Jones breaks

Despite racing into a 17-5 lead, the home side were outmuscled by their French visitors, who claimed a try-bonus point for their efforts.

On a night where former Scotland head coach Vern Cotter returned to the country in a coaching capacity for the first time since leaving the role, it was the French side who got proceedings underway in front of a sold-out Scotstoun.

With four minutes on the board, it was the Warriors who struck first, with Finn Russell kicking a penalty to nudge his side into an early lead.

However, it was to be the visitors who crossed for the evening’s opening try, with Aaron Cruden’s break and looping pass allowing Kelian Galletier to cross in the corner. Francois Steyn pushed the conversion wide, but Montpellier led 5-3 after 11 minutes.

Just two minutes later though, Glasgow restored their advantage. After a rolling maul was halted five metres from the line, Ali Price’s pass found Leonardo Sarto on a trailing run, the Italian showing great strength and agility to cross under the posts. Russell converted, taking the score to 10-5 in favour of the hosts.

The Scotstoun crowd were on their feet once again on 23 minutes, as the Warriors extended their lead in fine style. After another blockbusting run from Sarto, Price saw the opportunity to switch the play, feeding Russell on the blindside. The fly-half drew two men before producing a sumptuous offload to George Turner, with the hooker crashing over to touch down. Russell added the extras from out wide, and Glasgow led 17-5.

Turner found himself on the wrong side of referee Matthew Carley four minutes later, however, as the Scotland international found himself sent to the stands for ten minutes after an off-the-ball altercation with Montpellier captain Louis Picamoles.

The visitors eventually made their pressure count. After numerous phases with the extra man, Galletier spotted a gap at the side of a ruck and raced over from the 22 untouched, with Steyn’s conversion narrowing the gap to 17-12 with five minutes of the half to play.

Leonardo Sarto scoring for GlasgowThat gap was erased entirely just as Turner returned to the field. A Montpellier maul was adjudged to have been cynically collapsed by the Warriors, with the referee awarding a penalty try to the French side and sending Jonny Gray to the sin-bin. With the visitors safely recovering the kick-off, the score-line read 19-17 to Montpellier at the interval.

The men from the south of France started the second half on the front foot, with only a heroic last-ditch tackle from Price denying Nemani Nadolo a run-in down the touchline. However, Montpellier were to be the first to cross the whitewash in the second period, as Jacques du Plessis was awarded a questionable try by the TMO. Steyn converted, taking the score to 26-17.

With their European campaign on the line, Dave Rennie’s side produced a much-needed moment of magic. Russell’s cross-field kick on his own five-metre line was gathered on the run by Ruaridh Jackson, with the full-back feeding the onrushing Huw Jones. The centre was caught agonisingly close to the line, but had the presence of mind to offload to the supporting Sarto for the score. The conversion drifted wide, but Glasgow were back to within five with over a quarter of the game remaining.

The game’s physical nature was beginning to take its toll. Sarto’s departure due to an injury saw Chris Fusaro deployed out of position, the back-row replacement lining up against the hulking figure of Nadolo on the wing.

With ten minutes remaining, Steyn nudged his side further in front, the South African making no mistake with a penalty from in front of the posts to take the score to 29-22.

However, the Warriors were not to go quietly into the night. Sharp play from George Horne and quick hands from Jones saw Niko Matawalu rush into space. The Fijian’s kick in behind was carried over by Montpellier centre Jan Serfontein, giving Glasgow the five-metre scrum. Only an intervention from Nadolo prevented Rennie’s men from crossing the whitewash, but the Scotstoun crowd were in full voice.

It was not to be, though. One final attack from the home side was thwarted by the Montpellier defence, with the French side taking all five points back to the Altrad Stadium. The Warriors will have their chance to exact revenge in round four, with the return fixture taking place next Saturday.