Champions Cup: Edinburgh 19-10 Montpellier - Hosts secure home quarter-final
|European Champions Cup|
|Edinburgh (9) 19|
|Tries: Graham Con: Van der Walt Pens: Van der Walt (4)|
|Montpellier (7) 10|
|Tries: Du Plessis Con: Pienaar Pen: Pienaar|
Edinburgh produced a stunning victory over Montpellier to earn a home quarter-final in the Champions Cup.
Richard Cockerill's side topped Pool Five after a win that also guaranteed Glasgow a place in the last eight.
Jaco van der Walt put Edinburgh 9-0 up at Murrayfield before Jacques du Plessis' try narrowed the gap.
The boot of Ruan Pienaar briefly had Montpellier in front but a further Van der Walt penalty and Darcy Graham's try secured the win.
For the first time ever both Scottish sides are through to the quarter-finals, with Glasgow now sure of a place at least as one of the best three runners-up.
This was a seventh straight win for Edinburgh, whose reputation in European rugby continues to grow as they emerged victorious from a pool containing two French giants in Toulon and Montpellier, as well as Newcastle.
- Re-live Edinburgh's win as it happened
- Report: Newcastle Falcons 24-27 Toulon
- Fears for Watson and suspected broken hand - Cockerill
Belligerent hosts deny 'rock-star' Montpellier
In the build-up it was easy to get blinded by Edinburgh's recent excellence and Montpellier's travails, but the visitors came to Scotland, led by their coach Vern Cotter returning to his old stomping ground for the first time, with the intensity of a side that knew victory, and only victory, was good enough.
That desperation, and their rock-star starting line-up, made them especially dangerous.
The hosts knew they were in for a battle - and in the biting cold of an Edinburgh night that is exactly what they got.
Even though Van der Walt booted over three early penalties during a spell dominated by Stuart McInally's men, there was always going to be a rumble from the French and they started to throw a shape in earnest midway through the half.
Starved of ball for the opening quarter, Montpellier started to get on it and batter their big men straight down Edinburgh's guts. There was nothing cosmic about what they were doing, but it eventually proved effective. Having been denied by belligerent Edinburgh defence previously, they came again.
When Pienaar tapped a close-range penalty and fed big Du Plessis, the lock, who might have seen yellow for a swinging arm on WP Nel five minutes earlier, crashed over. Pienaar popped over the conversion to narrow the gap to two points.
The last 20 minutes of the opening half were worrying for Edinburgh and the opening few minutes of the second half did not bring any comfort either. Soft errors contributed to Montpellier getting the field position from where Pienaar punished another mistake with three more points that put them in front.
Hamish Watson had gone off injured after half an hour with a suspected fractured hand. That was a giant hole they had to plug as well - and they did and it amounted to a slice of Scottish rugby history.
'Edinburgh emerge as top dogs'
Edinburgh went up a gear. They ratcheted up the tempo. They were resilient, relentless and would not be beaten. Montpellier struggled to live with the pace, collapsing a maul that gave Van der Walt the chance to make it 12-10 and then scrambling forlornly to handle another devastating Edinburgh rumble soon after.
Successive drives took Edinburgh to the Montpellier line. Patience and precision got them over it in the next wave, Henry Pyrgos zipping his pass to Graham to score in the corner.
That brought the near-12,000 Edinburgh crowd, their biggest in a European group game, to their feet where they stayed when Van der Walt banged over the conversion from the touchline to stretch the advantage to nine.
Edinburgh saw it out from there, not that it was a cakewalk. Montpellier applied the pressure but the home defence was exceptional. McInally, Grant Gilchrist and Jamie Ritchie made one big play after another, piling into the Montpellier ball-carriers, living in their faces and forcing the errors.
Little of it was easy on the eye, but much of it was beautiful to behold for the Edinburgh support who have watched their team emerge from also-rans to top dogs, from a team that made you groan to a side that made you sit up and take notice.
They have travelled a distance under Cockerill and now they have another bit of road to come in Europe. A home quarter-final awaits and with it a big chance to progress. They'll know who they're up against soon enough.
Glasgow, too. Right now, they will not care. For the first time in history both Scottish teams are in the last eight of Europe's elite club competition. Joy unconfined in both camps.
Edinburgh: Kinghorn, Graham, Johnstone, Dean, Van der Merwe, Van der Walt, Pyrgos, Schoeman, McInally (capt), Nel, Toolis, Gilchrist, Ritchie, Watson, Mata.
Replacements: Cherry, Dell, Berghan, McKenzie, Crosbie, Fowles, Hickey, Socino.
Montpellier: Steyn, Nagusa, Vincent, Serfontein, Immelman, Goosen, Pienaar, Fichten, Du Plessis, Du Plessis, Van Rensburg, Du Plessis, Ouedraogo, Camara, Picamoles (capt).
Replacements: Guidicelli, Tcheishvili, Chilachava, Galletier, Reilhac, Paillaugue, Martin, Willemse.