Montferrand 20, Leinster 23
Denis Hickie‘s try in the dying minutes gave Leinster a valuable Heineken Cup victory at Montferrand.
Leinster trailed for almost the entire game before replacement outside-half Nathan Spooner darted down the blindside and delivered a pass to give Hickie the space to score in the corner.
The home fans thought the pass was forward, but Welsh referee Paul Adams awarded the crucial five-pointer.
Scrum-half Brian O’Meara made up for two earlier misses with a fine conversion from out wide and they held firm in injury-time to take the crucial two points.
Leinster coach Matt Williams was delighted with the last-gasp victory.
“The boys showed great character and courage,” he said. “We weathered the storm in the first half after purposely going into the wind.
“The conditions were worse than they seemed – the ball was very wet – so we tried to keep things simple and play one-pass rugby. We got our lineout sorted in the second half, and our scrum was magnificent.”
Montferrand had all the possession and territory in the opening half-hour, but couldn’t break Leinster‘s defence.
The home side had to be content with regular penalty goals from Gerald Merceron, with Leinster keeping in touch through the boot of O’Meara in their infrequent forays into the opposition half.
In fact, they made only three serious attacks and all were rewarded with an O’Meara penalty goal.
Leinster were struggling with their kicking game, with fullback Girvan Dempsey’s touch-finding radar not working properly.
By comparison, Merceron had the ball on a string and he was frustrated by his team-mate‘s inability to convert pressure into tries.
Merceron made sure Montferrand led 12-9 at the break, but it should have been by a bigger margin.
The French side attacked from the restart and were finally awarded in the 45th minute after a break from captain Olivier Magne. The ball was sent wide and a clever flick from backrower Marc Reynaud gave impressive winger Raphael Chanal time to bulldoze his way over the corner.
O’Meara missed simple shots at goal in the 50th and 64th minutes, but in between, winger Gordon D’Arcy scored in the corner after Shane Horgan burst up the middle and linked with O’Meara, whose long pass gave D’Arcy the space to score.
Opponent David Bory seemed to knee D’Arcy in the back after the Irish international scored but was given only a talking to by referee Adams. D’Arcy, meanwhile, was stretchered off.
Merceron kept his side in front with a fifth penalty goal before Hickie’s try had the crowd on its feet for all the wrong reasons.