Heineken Cup: Montpellier beat Sharks to keep pressure on Toulon
Montpellier kept alive their qualification hopes with a 27-6 bonus-point win over the struggling Sale Sharks.
Last Updated: 11/01/13 10:22pm
Sale, whose quarter-final ambitions were sunk in December by back-to-back defeats to Toulon, gave a debut to number eight Josh Beaumont, the 20-year-old son of former England captain Bill Beaumont, but he endured a tough time against man-of-the-match Johnnie Beattie.
Dominant in the set piece and sharper on attack, Fabien Galthie's men would have enjoyed an even greater margin of victory 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.
However, the bonus point enabled them to draw level with Toulon, who play Cardiff on Saturday before hosting their pool six rivals at Stade Yves du Manoir in their final match next Saturday.
The match began in predictable fashion when an incisive break by full-back Pierre Berard was supported by skipper Fulgence Ouedraogo, who sent winger Yohann Artru over by the posts for the game's opening try on nine minutes.
Sale fly-half Danny Cipriani pulled three points back with an 18th-minute penalty but the French side added a second try seven minutes before the break when Scotland international Beattie picked up a loose ball to charge over.
Paillaugue was off target with his conversion attempt and Cipriani cut the deficit to 12-6 with a second penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Paillaugue then stretched his side's lead with a 47th-minute penalty, and the game was effectively over as a contest two minutes later when dangerous centre Thomas Combezou sliced through the heart of the Sharks defence and the supporting Timoci Nagusa sent Berard over for a third try.
It was all Montpellier in the final quarter and centre Santiago Fernandez had a chance to secure the bonus point but he dropped Nagusa's pass on the line, while the impressive Beattie was twice held up over the line.
The pressure finally told two minutes from the end when the Sale pack crumbled once too often and referee Leighton Hodges awarded Montpellier a penalty try, which replacement Eric Escande converted.