Sale unable to do Leinster a favour
Heineken Cup round-up:Leinster’s hopes of qualifying for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals as one of two best runners-up suffered another blow last night after Montpellier secured a winning bonus point at Sale, lifting the French side to 18 points ahead of their final pool match at home to Toulon. With Leinster currently on 10 points – and only able to reach a maximum of 20 - the result was bad news for Joe Schmidt’s defending champions.
Northampton’s failure to secure a bonus point against Castres could yet have a bearing on the final outcome, with the English side now unable to top Ulster’s group. The Saints moved up to 14 points overall, just four ahead of Leinster but having played one game more. Leinster take on the Scarlets at the RDS tomorrow evening knowing nothing less than a bonus point win will suffice if they are to retain any hope of reaching the last eight.
Sale suffered a fourth consecutive defeat by French opposition in the competition as Montpellier kept alive their qualification hopes at the City of Salford Stadium. With their quarter-final hopes sunk in December by back-to-back defeats by Toulon, Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond opted to give run-outs to several fringe players and, as expected, they proved no match for their star-studded visitors.
It proved to be a testing debut for number eight Josh Beaumont, the 20-year-old son of former England captain Bill Beaumont, who found himself up against man-of-the-match Johnnie Beattie. Montpellier, flying high in the French League, made it four successive wins while a bonus point enabled them to draw level with Toulon, who play Cardiff tomorrow before hosting their pool six rivals at Stade Yves du Manoir in their final match next Saturday.
Dominant in the set piece and sharper on attack, Fabien Galthie’s men would have enjoyed an even greater margin of victory than 27-6 but for some slipshod handling in the bitterly cold conditions and an off-day with the boot by Benoit Paillaugue, who succeeded with just two of his five goal attempts.