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Harlequins and Montpellier Hérault Rugby have never met in the Heineken Champions Cup, but they have been familiar foes in the EPCR Challenge Cup and Quins won’t need reminding how the last of those five meetings – in the 2016 final – ended.
The French side stormed into a 26-9 lead before Quins scored 10 points in the last 10 minutes to add some respectability to the scoreline of their second consecutive defeat by Montpellier.
The English champions are a different side now, though, and enter Sunday’s Round of 16 first leg at the GGL Stadium as Pool B runners-up, having won all four of their games. Montpellier, in contrast, finished seventh in Pool A after winning two and losing two of their matches.
The match kicks off at 13:00 UK and Irish time, and will be shown live on BT Sport and beIN SPORTS.
Other key facts:
- This will only be Montpellier’s second match in the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup. They lost their only previous one, away to ASM Clermont Auvergne by a margin of 22 points (14-36, 2012/13 quarter-final).
- Montpellier have won six of their previous nine games at home against English opposition in the Heineken Champions Cup. Harlequins, meanwhile, have won on six of their previous 10 trips to France and came from behind to win against Castres earlier this season (20-18).
- This will be Harlequins’ fifth match in the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup. They have lost all four of their previous knockout fixtures, with their heaviest defeat in that run coming away to French opposition (10-51 v Stade Toulousain in November 1997).
- Despite trailing at half-time in their last four Heineken Champions Cup matches away from home, Harlequins have gone on to win on three occasions during that run. Their last seven away games have all seen them score more points in the second half than the first.
- No side have conceded more points per game than Montpellier in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (52). They have also conceded the most tries per game in the competition (7.7), with Harlequins not in the top 10 in either category.
- Harlequins have scored more points in the last 20 minutes of games than any other side in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (46), while only Cardiff (48) have conceded more points in the final 20 minutes than Montpellier (44).
- Harlequins are the only side not to have conceded a scrum penalty in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup, while Montpellier are joint third for scrum penalties conceded (9).
- Montpellier boast three of the four players to have averaged 20 or more completed tackles per game in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup: Jan Serfontein (20), Paul Willemse (21) and Yacouba Camara (21).
- Only Munster’s Tadgh Beirne (6) has stolen more balls at the breakdown in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup than Harlequins’ Alex Dombrandt (5). Dombrandt is also the second-top try-scorer in this year’s tournament (6).
The undefeated @Harlequins 💪
How will they fare as they go head-to-head with @MHR_Officiel?#HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/C61zrfB8mo
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 6, 2022
Harlequins wing Cadan Murley: “It doesn’t get much bigger. We’re buzzing for the challenge and excited for the next two weeks.”
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No.8 Zach Mercer scored a try brace as Montpellier Hérault Rugby secured an impressive 40-26 win over Harlequins in the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 first leg at GGL Stadium on Sunday.
Gabriel N’gandebe, Cobus Reinach and Titi Lamositele went over in addition to Mercer’s double, who was awarded Heineken Star of the Match for his impressive display.
However, Quins scored four second half tries to keep themselves in in contention ahead of the second leg at Twickenham Stoop next weekend – George Hammond, Andre Esterhuizen, Joe Marchant and Louis Lynagh dotted down for the visitors.
Quins had plenty of the ball during the opening stages but Montpellier’s defence was aggressive and well-drilled, regularly driving the visitors back in contact.
Zach Mercer is on 🔥
What a display from Montpellier as they lead Quins 26-0 in France.#ChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/8QLIz8sLe6
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 10, 2022
And the TOP 14 outfit would take the lead on 21 minutes when wing N’gandebe gathered after a cross field kick from Quins fly-half Marcus Smith went to ground, racing over in the corner from 20 metres out.
Montpellier doubled their advantage on 31 minutes when Mercer smashed his way over from close range, and a yellow card for centre Andre Esterhuizen for a deliberate knock-on in the build-up compounded Quins’ misery.
With an extra man, Montpellier turned the screw, with scrum-half Reinach dotting down to punish Quins for a dropped ball in midfield before Mercer finished superbly in the corner for his second score on 38 minutes.
The hosts went into the second half with a 26-0 lead, and that margin would be extended as they took advantage of the final minute of Esterhuizen’s sin bin, running the Quins defence ragged with a series of offloads before eventually forcing their way over through prop Lamositele.
Fly-half Paolo Garbisi added three more points with a penalty on 47 minutes, but Quins would finally get some points on the board when flanker Hammond gathered Smith’s stabbed kick in behind and dotted down.
What a finish from Joe Marchant 🔥🔥
Quins are on the comeback 💪#ChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/lQexyPW01O
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 10, 2022
They reduced the deficit further on 61 minutes as Esterhuizen powered over and planted down following a quickly-taken penalty.
Another Quins try came four minutes later as wing Lynagh streaked through and teed up centre Marchant who stepped inside the covering defender to score.
Montpellier replacement fly-half Handré Pollard kicked a penalty with five minutes to play, but Quins got over again in the closing stages as Lynagh intercepted and ran from inside his own half to score.
Pollard had the final say as he kicked another penalty in the final play of the game, leaving his side with a 14-point lead heading into the second leg on Saturday.
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