European Rugby Champions Cup: Northampton Saints 16-14 Montpellier Herault
|Northampton (10) 16|
|Try: Clark Con: Myler Pens: Myler 3|
|Montpellier (8) 14|
|Try: Steyn Pens: Botica 2, Steyn|
Stephen Myler's injury-time penalty snatched victory for Northampton against French high-fliers Montpellier in a hard-fought Champions Cup opener.
The Saints exploited a slow start by Montpellier as Calum Clark muscled over out wide in the third minute.
But Francois Steyn crossed before half-time and added two kicks to put the visitors 14-13 up inside the last 10.
Harry Mallinder missed a long-range penalty before Myler stepped up to seal victory with the last act of the game.
Northampton spent big to bring France international number eight Louis Picamoles from Toulouse last season for evenings such as this.
The 30-year-old brings heft and experience to the Saints back row, but it was his pace and handling skills that did the damage to his former club.
In persistent rain, a precise offload foxed the cover defence and opened up a route to the corner for Clark inside three minutes.
After the interval, a fleet-footed burst made 40 metres to put Saints into a position for Mallinder to slot a penalty to make it 13-8.
Throughout the match, he flew into the fray with relish and his leadership saw the hosts through a nervy final quarter.
Get your kicks
Montpellier, who won the second-tier Challenge Cup last season and are second in the Top 14 this season, have vowed to make the most of their return to Europe's top table after a two-year absence.
They could easily have taken victory at Franklin's Gardens but for a couple of routine, but costly, mistakes.
In the first half, Steyn accompanied his attempt to charge down Myler's conversion kick with a shout in attempt to put off the Northampton fly-half. Referee Nigel Owens ordered a retake and Myler, having missed his first attempt from the touchline, landed his second.
Myler's match-winning shot at goal came partly through an error by visiting scrum-half Nic White, who failed to find touch after gathering Mallinder's wayward kick, allowing Saints to re-establish field position.
Montpellier's defeat means they join fellow French side Castres in the bottom half of Pool Four after their compatriots' defeat by Leinster earlier on Saturday.
Northampton Saints: Ben Foden; Ken Pisi, George Pisi, Harry Mallinder, George North; Steve Myler, Nic Groom; Alex Waller, Mikey Haywood, Kieran Brookes, Courtney Lawes, Michael Paterson, Tom Wood (c), Calum Clark, Louis Picamoles
Replacements: Charlie Clare, Ethan Waller, Paul Hill, Sam Dickinson, Teimana Harrison, Lee Dickson, Rory Hutchinson, James Wilson
Montpellier: Benjamin Fall (c); Marvin O'Connor, Alexandre Dumoulin, Frans Steyn, Nemani Nadolo; Ben Botica, Nic White; Mikheil Nariashvili, Shalva Mamukashvili, Davit Kubriashvili, Konstantine Mikautadze, Paul Willemse, Jacques Du Plessis, Antoine Battut, Pierre Spies
Replacements: Romain Ruffenach, Yvan Watremez, Jannie Du Plessis, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Akapusi Qera, Cameron Wright, Vincent Martin, Joffrey Michel
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