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European giants clash at Twickenham Stadium on Friday evening as two-time European Cup winners Leicester Tigers take on Montpellier in what has all the hallmarks of an epic final at English Rugby’s HQ.
Leicester come into the final with a string of high-profile European successes to their name, having seen off Connacht Rugby, Newcastle Falcons and Ulster Rugby en route to a first final for 12 years.
Montpellier have proven stubborn opposition in their quest for a second Challenge Cup title, edging out Benetton Rugby and then Bath Rugby on the road in the semi-finals.
Leicester and Montpellier have never met in the Challenge Cup, however they have faced each
other in the Heineken Champions Cup twice previously, the Tigers coming out on top in both
pool stage matches in 2013/14.
You can watch all the action live on BT Sport on Friday from 20:00 (UK and Irish time).
Leicester Tigers: 4th in European Rugby Challenge Cup Prelim Stage; 9 points
Montpellier: 11th in Heineken Champions Cup Pool A; 0 points
Leicester Tigers 39-15 Newcastle Falcons
Montpellier 31-25 Benetton Rugby
Leicester Tigers 33-24 Ulster Rugby
Bath Rugby 10-19 Montpellier
European Rugby Challenge Cup head-to-head record
The sides have never met in the European Rugby Challenge Cup
There have been some 𝐞𝐩𝐢𝐜 Twickenham battles in European finals ⚔️
Which one sticks out in your mind?
— Challenge Cup (@ERChallengeCup) May 18, 2021
Leading 2020/21 points-scorers
Leicester Rugby: George Ford (33)
Montpellier: Benoit Paillaugue (34)
Steve Borthwick (Leicester Tigers): “I wouldn’t like to be involved in something where there isn’t any expectation. They expect high standards at Leicester Tigers. At the same time, they respect there’s a lot of work to be done. The team has fallen a long way behind. We’ve started on that journey to close that gap.”
- Leicester will be participating in the Challenge Cup final for the first time, although they have
reached the Heineken Champions Cup final on five previous occasions (W2, L3); they lost their
only previous European final at Twickenham, a 9-25 defeat to Wasps in 2006/07.
- Montpellier have reached the Challenge Cup final for the second time, they defeated
Premiership side Harlequins 26-19 in Lyon in the 2015/16 showpiece event; Leicester meanwhile
are aiming to become the fifth side to win both the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup
(also Leinster, Wasps, Northampton Saints, Bath).
- Montpellier have won each of their last nine Challenge Cup games, a run that is more than
twice as long as their previous best winning run in the competition and began during their
successful 2015/16 title winning campaign.
- Leicester Tigers have won 10 of their previous 12 Challenge Cup matches (L2), however both of
their defeats in that spell came against TOP 14 opposition (v Pau and RC Toulon in 2019/20);
they have won their last five straight games but haven’t won more consecutive matches in
European competition since 2006/07 (W7).
- Montpellier have conceded just 18.7 points and 0.7 tries per game in the Challenge Cup this
season, fewer than any other club, although they’ve conceded the most penalty goals on
- Leicester have gained 84 metres from their maul in this season’s Challenge Cup, only Newcastle
Falcons (106) have gained more, while only Ulster (5) have scored more tries directly from their
maul than the Tigers (3) in 2020/21.
- Montpellier’s Florian Verhaeghe has stolen five lineouts in the Challenge Cup in 2020/21, over
twice as many as any other player; teammate Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg and Leicester’s Ollie
Chessum are two of the nine players behind Verhaeghe on two lineout steals.
Match Centre - Preview - Lineups
Montpellier edged past Leicester Tigers 18-17 in a thrilling European Rugby Challenge Cup final at Twickenham Stadium on Friday evening.
The sides traded four tries, but it was the stunning match-winner from Montpellier centre Johan Goosen that secured a second Challenge Cup title for the French outfit.
Wing Vincent Rattez had scored the opening five-pointer, before Leicester dotted down either side of the break through Harry Wells and Jasper Wiese.
The Leicester-dominated crowd of 10,000 had something to cheer early on as Montpellier stopped a maul illegally on eight minutes, with Andrew Brace awarding a penalty that George Ford duly dispatched.
That Leicester lead would only last five minutes though, as Anthony Bouthier kicked in behind the line and found the former La Rochelle wing Rattez who somehow managed to keep the ball in play with his feet, before dotting down under extreme pressure.
Scrum-half Benoit Paillaugue slotted over the sideline conversion and then nudged Montpellier further ahead with a successful long-range penalty kick.
— Challenge Cup (@ERChallengeCup) May 21, 2021
The Leicester maul proved dominant throughout proceedings and it led to Alexandre Becognee heading to the sin bin after a string of penalties, before it led to Leicester’s levelling try.
They initially won penalty advantage within inches of the Montpellier line, before Wells burst past the Montpellier defence and over the whitewash, with Ford converting to leave the score at 10-10 at the break.
Penalties mounted up for Montpellier at the start of the second half, and they would eventually have Guilhem Guirado sent to the sin bin before Leicester again took advantage of the extra man with their second try.
It was semi-final try-scorer Wiese wh0 crashed over in the corner from yet another powerful maul, with Ford slotting over.
Leicester were then penalised in front of their own posts shortly after as they didn’t roll away at the breakdown, allowing Montpellier and Paillaugue to kill some clock a man light and slot over the three-pointer.
The lead changes hands once more 🔥
— Challenge Cup (@ERChallengeCup) May 21, 2021
On then hour mark, Montpellier dealt what would prove to be the fatal blow.
After a stunning break from Gabriel N’Gandebe and a neat cut inside from Anthony Bouthier, the latter released Johan Goosen to run in what would turn out to be the match-winning try.
Paillaugue’s conversion would clip both posts and come back out to make it a one-point game, but even with Handre Pollard missing a long-range three-pointer, Leicester couldn’t make their scrum and maul dominance count in the final minutes.
That meant Montpellier would cling on for a famous success, winning one final penalty and kicking into touch – claiming the 2021 European Rugby Challenge Cup trophy in the process, five years after winning their first European title.