|Heineken Champions Cup|
|Newcastle (16) 23|
|Tries: Graham, Chick Cons: Hodgson (2) Pen: Hodgson (3)|
|Montpellier (6) 20|
|Try: Willemse Pens: Pienaar (5)|
Callum Chick’s try in the eighth minute of injury time secured a dramatic 23-20 victory for Newcastle as they downed one of French rugby’s big beasts for a second successive weekend.
After taking a 10-point half-time lead via Gary Graham’s try, the hosts seemed to have been overhauled late on.
But with the clock in the red Newcastle launched a relentless 39-phase assault which ended with Chick burrowing over.
The Falcons top Pool Five after winning away at Toulon last weekend.
With his side having collected just one win from six matches in the Premiership, director of rugby Dean Richards will hope their continental heroics can inspire them to pull away from the domestic drop.
A frantic finale
The style of the victory was as remarkable as the win itself.
When referee Mike Adamson’s arm flew up to signal the match-winning score, Newcastle reached the destination on a journey that began with a penalty award deep inside their own half and only 20 seconds of normal time left.
Montpellier, leading by four and with scrum-half Ruan Pienaar orchestrating affairs, had looked set to run down the clock, but a momentary piece of indiscipline allowed Joel Hodgson to kick upfield and begin Newcastle’s drive for victory.
|Champions Cup Pool Five|
With the pace of wings Sinoti Sinoti and Vereniki Goneva lurking wide, Newcastle may have been tempted to look wide as they crept closer to the Montpellier line through a barrage of forward runners.
But the home pack instead continued to back themselves against the formidable and expensively assembled opposite numbers, keeping in close quarters and inching forward before Chick barged over the final yard.
The Kingston Park stadium announcer had appealed for more noise from the home fans as Newcastle battered towards the line and Chick’s score sparked delirium among the 6,383 in attendance.
Flankers to the fore
With England coach Eddie Jones in attendance and lacking back-row options, Newcastle’s candidates to fill those vacancies impressed.
Flankers Mark Wilson – who was named in Jones’ 36-man squad for the autumn internationals – and Gary Graham, who was not, were both furiously busy in the loose and made mischief for Montpellier at the breakdown.
Centre Johnny Williams made a superb break to set up Graham’s try in an impressive start for him and his side.
Montpellier sharpened up their defence and asserted their set-piece dominance after the break with Paul Willemse driving over from a line-out.
But the visitors, upset in last year’s Top 14 final by Castres, again found themselves wanting under severe pressure.
‘We are still the minnows’
Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards: “Things haven’t changed. We are still the minnows and we still have absolutely nothing to lose. We weren’t given a hope in hell of winning one, never mind two games in the pool.
“We play Edinburgh in December and they are a fantastic team; they are on fire. They have something like 15 current full internationals. We’re not in that position so we still have nothing to lose.”
Montpellier head coach Vern Cotter: “They managed to keep the ball for eight minutes at the end of the game to win and you have to give them credit for that – it’s a sign of a good team.
“We will see what happens when we play the two pool games against Toulon. We’re still hoping to put in the necessary good performances to qualify.”
Newcastle: Tait; Goneva, Penny, Williams, Sinoti; Hodgson, Young; Mavinga, Cooper, Wilson, Green, Young, Wilson (c), Graham, Burrows
Replacements: McGuigan, Brocklebank, Mulipola, Witty, Chick, Takulua, Connon, Harris.
Montpellier: Fall; Martin, Reilhac, Serfontein, N’gandebe; Cruden, Pienaar; Nariashvili, Giudicelli, Chilachava, Van Rensburg, Willemse, Ouedraogo, Liebenberg, Picamoles (c)
Replacements: Ruffenach, Fichten, Guillamon, Devedec, Galletier, Sanga, Darmon, Vincent