Heineken Cup: Montpellier beat Toulon 23-3 to progress to the quarter-finals
Montpellier thrashed Toulon 23-3 to join their visitors in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.
Last Updated: 19/01/13 9:04pm
The hosts paid tribute to their late forwards coach Eric Bechu with a spirited display in poor conditions - Benoit Paillaugue's 15 points helping them create history by making the last-eight, where a trip to Clermont-Auvergne awaits.
Toulon, who are rumoured to be in negotiations to bring half-backs Dan Carter and Michael Claassens to southern France over the summer, began the match brightly.
Their scrum seemed set for an afternoon of dominance in earning a fourth-minute penalty confidently converted by Jonny Wilkinson's boot, but in the event that was as good as it got for the Pool-toppers.
The stadium erupted in the 10th minute, when Montpellier capitalised on some shoddy Toulon defence - Thomas Combezou gliding past a seemingly disinterested Frederic Michalak and touching down under the posts unopposed.
Timoci Nagusa was close to bagging a quick-fire second but spilled Francois Trinh-Duc's accurate crossfield kick over the try-line, and Toulon were forced further onto the back foot when Wilkinson departed with a facial injury.
A trio of Paillaugue penalties followed the quarter-hour mark with Toulon's discipline deteroriating, and Delon Armitage's frustration was clear as his spear-tackle on Pierre Berard earned him a yellow card six minutes before the break.
Only some titanic tackling prevented Mamuka Gorgodze and Nagusa from turning Montpellier's man-advantage into a second try late in the first half, but they were quickly to work on that front when the second period began.
Again, Toulon scrum-half Michalak was culpable as his wayward off-load allowed Montpellier momentum in the visitors' 22, and Paillaugue pounced on the loose ball to rush over in the corner for a score he then brilliantly converted.
A stitched-up Wilkinson returned, but his afternoon was typified in the 72nd minute when he missed a relatively routine shot at goal, and the ex-England fly-half was even further wide of the mark with a late drop-goal attempt.
Toulon are all but assured a home tie in the last-eight, but the Top 14 leaders will need to produce marked improvement on this performance if they are to come close to securing the first Heineken Cup in their history.