Connacht 23-20 Montpellier: Winning Heineken Champions Cup return for Irish

Caolin Blade
Blade scored Connacht's third try in their superb win

A late Conor Fitzgerald penalty helped Connacht to a superb 23-20 win over Montpellier in their first Heineken Champions Cup game in three seasons.

Paul Boyle, stand-in captain Tom McCartney and Caolin Blade scored the tries for Andy Friend's team.

Fitzgerald and Jack Carty kicked the rest of the points at the Sportsground for injury-depleted Connacht, who led 13-10 at the break.

The French side scored tries through Aaron Cruden and Anthony Bouthier.

Captain Benoit Paillaugue added two penalties for the French visitors, who started brightly and opened the scoring through a Cruden try.

The hosts, who had some late adjustments before kick-off with skipper Jarrad Butler, Matt Healy and Niyi Adeolokun all withdrawn through injury, reacted well with Carty slotting over a penalty.

Conor Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald's late penalty proved decisive

Bundee Aki and Colby Fainga'a began to impose themselves on the game and, when blindside Boyle managed to crash over in the right corner, it closed the gap to 10-8.

They soon added a second try when, from a lineout, McCartney touched down at the tail of a rolling maul for a 13-10 turnaround.

Paillaugue punished a Connacht offside to tie things up early in the second period before scrum-half Blade ran in for a try which Carty converted for a 20-13 scoreline.

Jan Serfontein established field position for the French outfit and full-back Bouthier grabbed an impressive try, which Paillaugue converted for 20-20 to set up an exciting finish.

It was substitute out-half Fitzgerald who secured the win for Connacht, with a well-struck penalty in the 68th minute.

Connacht: Leader; Porch, Aki, Daly; Godwin; Carty, Blade; Buckley, McCartney, Roberston-McCoy; Callagher, Dillane, Boyle, Fainga'a; Copeland.

Replacements: Maksymiw for Gallagher, Masterson for Maksymiw, Fitzgerald for Carty, Heffernan for McCartney, Kenny for Robertson-McCoy.

Montpellier: Bouthier; Ngandebe, Vincent, Serfontein, Reilhac; Cruden. Paillague; Bariashvili, Delhommel, Haouas; Janse Van Resnburg; Willimse; Galletier, Camara; Timu.

Replacements: Du Plessis for Willemsde, Du Plessis for Delhommel, Bardy for Nariashvilli, Fichten for Galletier, Immelman for Cruden, Sanga for Paillaugue, Du Plessis for Haouas, Ouedraogo for Camara.

Referee: M Carley (England).