A moment of magic from Springboks Jan Serfontein and Johan Goosen inspired Montpellier to an 18-17 victory over Leicester Tigers in the European Challenge Cup final.
Matchflow: The Challenge Cup final kicked off in the fading light of a cold Friday evening at Twickenham. Leicester Tigers, enjoying a resurgence under the guidance of Steve Borthwick, faced off against Montpellier, a side that had fought its way to the final having been written off a few weeks ago.
The Tigers were the dominant side in the first half and despite conceding an early try to the opportunistic Vincent Rattez, had the better of possession and territory.
As the first half drew to a close Leicester eventually made the power of their pack tell when they scored a 20-metre driving-maul try finished off by Harry Wells. The two sides could not be separated at the break and went in for oranges at 10 points apiece.
The men in green started the second half as they finished the first –with another try off of the back of a driving maul. This time it was eighthman Jasper Wiese who crossed the whitewash. The conversion by George Ford put the Tigers 17-10 ahead with some breathing room for the first time in the match.
Montpellier struck back with a penalty to go only four points behind before a moment of magic sealed what would prove to be the game-winning score for the French side.
Inside centre Jan Serfontein executed a fine offload which resulted in a linebreak and an eventual try for centre partner Johan Goosen.
Both sides rang the changes in the final 20 minutes, but Montpellier managed to hang on for victory thanks to some telling interventions from Bismarck du Plessis.
Bok watch: Despite being on the losing side, Jasper Wiese was a standout in the Challenge Cup final. The No 8 was at his belligerent and abrasive best all game and continues to be a talisman for his side. His gamebreaking ability will no doubt have caught the eyes of Springbok management and may well earn him a call-up for the Lions series.
Jan Serfontein was once considered a future great Springbok inside centre. In the Challenge Cup final he showed all the reasons why he has long been so highly rated. His work rate was phenomenal and he executed a number of momentum-arresting tackles. However, it was his deft handling to put Johan Goosen away that won the match for Montpellier. His Springbok career is far from over.
Springbok halfbacks Cobus Reinach and Handre Pollard came on as replacements in the second half for Montpellier. Though neither had enough time to really put their mark on the game, both exhibited some assured and composed touches. Pollard specifically showed no signs of sluggishness having only recently returned from injury.
Hanro Liebenberg, Johan Goosen and Bismarck du Plessis were the three other standout South Africans in the final. Du Plessis showed that he was evergreen by making some telling breakdown contributions including a turnover in the 65th minute at a crucial time when the game hung in the balance.
Tries: Wells, Wiese
Conversions: Ford (2)
Penalties: Paillaugue (2)
Tries: Rattez, Goosen