Zach Mercer impresses in shedding trigger as Montpellier fightback repelled by La Rochelle

La Rochelle booked their place within the Champions Cup semi-finals after seeing off French rivals Montpellier with a hard-fought victory on the Stade Marcel-Deflandre.

Dany Priso, Victor Vito and Levani Botia acquired their names on the scoresheet whereas Ihaia West scored 16 factors from the boot because the hosts held off a spirited fightback after initially charging right into a 17-point lead.

Montpellier scored tries by way of Henry Thomas, Yvan Reilhac and Zach Mercer, as Louis Forsans kicked two conversions, however they finally ran out of steam within the west coast of France.

After a cagey opening the hosts took a Thirteenth-minute lead when Vito launched prop Priso, who will depart the membership on the finish of the season, to attain. West transformed his strive – and it was an indication of issues to come back because the La Rochelle took cost of this tie.

Following a Seventeenth-minute penalty from West that made the rating 10-0, a cute offload from Botia discovered Jules Favre, who free Vito to dive to attain. West transformed once more and at this level, 17-0 up after simply 23 minutes, there gave the impression to be just one facet with critical designs on the ultimate 4.

Yet Montpellier rallied and reduce the deficit to 10 factors. Thomas, the prop, drove over after a interval of strain from the guests and Foursans conversion gave Montpellier a foothold.

They emerged from the break with the momentum and all of the sudden the summit of the mountain was in sight.  

Reilhac made essentially the most of some confusion within the La Rochelle defence, following a combination up between Pierre Bourgarit and Tawera Kerr Barlow, and seized on a free ball to dive over. Forsans transformed once more and all of the sudden the deficit was simply three.

But this La Rochelle facet is fabricated from steely stuff and in Botia they’ve a centre who can flip a match on its head. He added 5 factors a couple of minutes later when he fended off Gabriel N’gandebe’s try at a sort out and though West missed the conversion, the strain within the residence finish started to dissipate.

That temporary interlude of calm didn’t final lengthy, nevertheless. Montpellier scored once more by way of former England hope Mercer, who benefitted from neat interaction from Yacouba Camara and Benoit Paillaugue, and his strive on the left wing was his third on this competitors this season. 

Had Forsans transformed, the deficit would have been only one. Instead, his miss left it at three – and the hosts would quickly open up a nine-point lead when West kicked two penalties. A 3rd within the dying levels would take the rating to 31-19 and guarantee no late drama.

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