Ulster produce rare result in Europe after Montpellier implosion in second half

Paul Willemse’s red card saw French side reduced to 12 players at one point

Challenge Cup: Montpellier 17 Ulster 40

Ulster put some of their recent turmoil behind them by producing a rare result in Europe to progress to the European Challenge Cup’s quarter-finals where they will travel to meet Clermont next weekend.

Interim head coach Richie Murphy’s first win three games after taking over after the removal of Dan McFarland was given most of its propulsion after Montpellier – suffering their own turbulent season – imploded in the second half following skipper Paul Willemse’s red card which saw them reduced to 12 players at one point after Ben Whitehouse showed two yellow cards in quick succession.

The hosts – now back to 14 – also had one more yellow, shown to Gabriel Ngandebe as this scrappy contest finished with a penalty try, after Ulster – who struggled to make their numerical advantage count – had already crossed the line five times.

It had started so badly for Ulster who had been badly disrupted pre-kickoff by a number of withdrawals. Coughing up cheap possession at a breakdown was compounded by Will Addison’s knock on behind his own goal line which in turn presented Montpellier with an opportunity to score and one they did not turn down off the resulting scrum.


Sam Simmonds picked from the base and several phases later Willemse blasted through John Cooney from close range. Louis Foursans-Bourdette converted the ninth-minute score.

After a period of scrappy play from both sides, the hosts scored again moving the ball right and finding space on the flank, Aubin Eymeri got the ball and beat Rob Herring before his dink over Addison created the chance and with no one at home for Ulster the scrumhalf gathered and dotted down.

Foursans-Bourdette again converted, and Ulster looked in trouble now trailing 14-0 after 23 minutes.

Ulster responded with a first phase move off a scrum, Nathan Doak putting Robert Baloucoune into a gap. The winger was hauled down short of the line, the ball coming loose but going backwards allowing Addison to pick and score.

The half ended badly for the visitors though as after Steven Kitshoff – his departure at season’s end confirmed late last week – was pinged at a scrum, Foursans-Bourdette landed a long-range penalty to give Montpellier a 10-point lead at the break.

The new half opened in the worst manner possible for the home team with Willemse making head contact with Addison as the lock went for an unnecessary hit, his red card inevitable.

Ulster took immediate advantage, nice work from James Hume and Nathan Doak allowed Stewart Moore feed Baloucoune and he made the corner. Cooney, though, hit the upright with the conversion.

The sending off looked a momentum shifter and Ulster’s scrum now getting on top though Nick Timoney was held up off one advancing set-piece and then Kitshoff was short of the line though Montpellier won a relieving jackal off Doak with the northern province making a mess of possession.

After incessant pressure, though, Ulster finally found a way through when replacement prop Scott Wilson battered through after Ulster took a tap and go penalty on 63 minutes. Cooney’s conversion put Ulster in front for the first time in the game.

Montpellier reacted by having lock Florian Verhaeghe yellow carded for deliberately standing on James Hume and shortly afterwards the hosts went down to 12 when replacement hooker Vano Karkadze was also shown yellow for side entry.

The inevitable happened when David McCann was driven over on 66 minutes, Cooney’s extras putting Ulster 26-17 in front.

Ulster kept up the pressure even when Montpellier were back to 14, Stuart McCloskey barrelling over late on though the game ended with a penalty try to the visitors for a deliberate slap down and a third yellow card for Gabriel Ngandebe.

Montpellier Tries: P Willemse, A Eymeri. Cons: Foursans-Bourdette 2 Pens: Foursans-Bourdette 1

Ulster Tries: W Addison, R Baloucoune, S Wilson, S McCloskey, pen try. Cons: Cooney 4

Montpellier: A De Nardi; G Ngandebe, P Lucas, A Cadot, B Lam; L Foursans-Bourdette, A Eymeri; G Fichten, C Tolofua, H Williams, F Verhaeghe, P Willemse (capt), A Becognee, C Doumenc, S Simmonds.

Replacements: V Karkadze for Tolofua 47mins, B Erdocio for Fichten 47mins, L Macharashvili for Williams mins, T Duguid for Simmonds 46mins, Y Camara for Becognee 48mins, L Carbonel for Foursans-Bourdette 59mins, M Dakuwaqa for Lucas 54mins, J Tisseron for Doumenc 65mins.Tolofua for Ngandebe 70mins, Ngandebe for Karkadze 77mins

Red card: P Willemse 41mins.

Yellow card: F Verhaeghe 65mins, V Karkadze 66mins, G Ngandebe 81mins

Ulster: W Addison; R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, S Moore; N Doak, J Cooney; S Kitshoff, R Herring, T O’Toole, A O’Connor, I Henderson (capt), Matty Rea, D McCann, N Timoney.

Replacements: J Andrew for Herring 65mins, A Warwick for Kitshoff 64mins, S Wilson for O’Toole 57mins, H Sheridan for O’Connor 49mins, C Izuchukwu for Henderson 78mins, J Flannery for Addison 41-52mins and for Hume 75mins, D Shanahan for Cooney 79mins.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wal)