Nadolo gives Montpellier edge over Saints
EUROPEAN CUP REPORT: Northampton Saints went down to their fourth defeat in six Champions Cup pool matches as they were beaten by a Montpellier side inspired by giant Fiji wing Nemani Nadolo.
Nadolo created one score and crossed for two individual efforts of his own with the Saints unable to cope with his raw power in the contact area.
Tries from Kelian Galletier and Jacques Du Plessis came either side of Nadolo's first to put the home side in command and when the man of the match completed his brace late on, his team were home and hosed.
Demetri Catrakilis added three conversions as visiting tries from Lee Dickson and Tom Kessell were their last two scores of a European campaign to forget. Montpellier's bonus-point success means they can still qualify for the quarterfinals as one of the three best runners-up, if results go their way on Saturday.
Northampton, who have had a nightmare Champions Cup experience, made nine changes with a place in the quarterfinals well beyond them and it was Montpellier who started the game with a bang. Nadolo's power game is well known, but on this occasion it was his precision passing which gave his team an early lead.
Attracting three Northampton tacklers, Nadolo bounced one and then offloaded out of the tackle with a sublime flick to release Galletier to score in the corner. Catrakilis added the extras.
At that stage the Saints were up against it, but after Montpellier lost Alexandre Dumoulin to injury and failed to make the most of their possession, Jim Mallinder's men hit back.
From a scrum, powerful surges from Teimana Harrison and Ethan Waller splintered the French defence, allowing scrumhalf and captain Dickson to sneak over from close range. JJ Hanrahan converted and then kicked a penalty and despite being under the cosh for the opening quarter, Saints turned around with a 10-7 half-time lead.
Mallinder's side thought they had added to their advantage at the start of the second period too. A set-piece move saw Ahsee Tuala break clear. The fullback sprinted for the line and found George North inside him, but after referee John Lacey consulted the TMO, the score was ruled out for Tuala's foot in touch.
Harry Mallinder then put a monster drop goal effort wide, before Nadolo continued to wreak more havoc.
Given the ball tight to the touchline, Nadolo looked a long way from the line but he bounced off five tacklers - North the last - to power to the line for a score eerily similar to that by the late Jonah Lomu against England at the 1995 World Cup.
That score was followed by a driving line-out try for replacement Du Plessis and with Catrakilis converting both efforts, Northampton were now up against it at 10-21 down. Montepellier didn't let up their assault as they chased the vital bonus-point score and Nadolo powered over from a scrum to seal the win late on.
Catrakilis missed the conversion and Kessell grabbed a late consolation, converted by Hanrahan, but it's Montpellier who will now have to wait and see if they make Europe's last eight while Northampton concentrate solely on domestic action.
Tries: Galletier, Nadolo 2, Jacques du Plessis
Cons: Catrakilis 3
Tries: Dickson, Kessell
Cons: Hanrahan 2
Montpellier: 15 Joffrey Michel, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Joseph Tomane, 12 Alexandre Dumoulin, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic White, 8 Akapusi Qera, 7 Kélian Galletier, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Charles Geli, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Antoine Guillamon, 19 Jacques du Plessis, 20 Antoine Battut, 21 Tomas O'Leary, 22 Henry Immelman, 23 Vincent Martin.
Northampton: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Juan Pablo Estelles, 13 Nafi Tuitavake, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 George North, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Lee Dickson (captain), 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Ben Nutley, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 James Craig, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Charlie Clare, 1 Ethan Waller,
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Mike Haywood, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 James Wilson, 23 Ken Pisi.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Gary Conway (Ireland), Dermot Blake (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)