Bath's disappointing Heineken Cup campaign continued as they slumped to their fourth defeat in five matches this season, going down to a last-gasp try.
The Aviva Premiership side had looked set for victory after two tries from the second-row forward Ryan Caldwell helped put them 22-17 ahead, going into the final minute. But Montpellier snatched their first Heineken Cup win when Timoci Nagusa went over for a try that was converted by Martin Bustos Moyano.
The result left Bath bottom of Pool Three, on seven points, and sent Montpellier into second spot, level on 10 points with Glasgow but having played a game extra. Leinster lead the way on 16 points ahead of their meeting with Glasgow tomorrow. A win for the champions will settle the pool; a win for the Scottish side will keep things very interesting heading into the final weekend of the pool stages.
It was Montpellier who were quickest out of the blocks at Stade Yves du Manoir and they crossed for a try in the opening minute, through the winger Pierre Berard. Benoît Paillaugue added the extra two points to make it 7-0 but Bath battled back from that early setback to take a 10-7 lead at the interval, the centre Olly Barkley reducing the deficit with a penalty before converting Caldwell's first try, which came on the stroke of half-time.
A Paillaugue penalty levelled the scores five minutes into the second half but Bath were back in front soon after that when Caldwell went over for his second try, Tom Heathcote kicking the conversion this time.
Bath's lead lasted barely eight minutes, before Montpellier made it 17-17 through a converted Alex Tulou score, but the Premiership side were soon back in the ascendancy as the England centre Matt Banahan – who was last week dropped to the second-string Saxons for the Six Nations period to come – scored their third try of the match in the 71st minute.
Heathcote was unable to add the extra points, however, and that meant that the French side, playing in only their second Heineken Cup campaign, knew a late converted try could still win them the match. That was exactly what happened, thanks to Nagusa and the replacement Moyano.
The game between Glasgow and Leinster today has assumed an importance for Scottish rugby as a whole. Only one Scottish team – Edinburgh in 2004 – have ever made it into the last eight of the Heineken Cup. This season it could be two, as Edinburgh are well placed to go through from Pool Two and Glasgow are still in contention.
Glasgow's hopes were boosted when their highly rated flanker Rob Harley was cleared to face Leinster, having faced a disciplinary hearing triggered by his third yellow card of the season, collected against the Scarlets last week. Harley is one of 10 new faces in Sean Lineen's team for today.
The head coach said: "It's great to have the matter settled and a real boost to the team to know that Rob will be involved. He's been a key player for us all season and we're expecting another big performance from him."
Lineen has picked Chris Cusiter and Duncan Weir to resume their half-back partnership and John Barclay, Alastair Kellock, Richie Gray, Pat MacArthur, Ed Kalman, Colin Shaw, Stuart Hogg and Rory Lamont also return.
"This is the sort of game you work in rugby to be involved in," said Lineen. "What a challenge we've got ahead of us, against a side who have set new standards in what they do at the contact area and how many good decisions they make right across the park. We know from the first game back in November that it's going to be tough, massively so, but this is what it's all about.
"Through a lot of hard work and determination, we've put ourselves in a position where we're going into the last two pool games still very much in the mix, and we're all excited and enthused by that.
"It's been yet another difficult selection process this week, with some tough calls for us to make between guys who each present a compelling case. The guys who weren't involved in Llanelli will feel the benefit in what will be another hugely physical game, and it's great to be able to welcome back Rory Lamont, whose quality and fearlessness are vital for us in this sort of environment. We really believe in this team and what they're capable of delivering. It's about showing what it means to represent Glasgow Warriors on the biggest stage, and ultimately to win on it."
Montpellier JB Peyras-Loustalet (M Bustos Moyano, 67); T Nagusa, G Doumayrou (Y Audrin, 62), T Combezou, P Berard; S Fernandez, B Paillaugue (J Tomas, 67); M Nariashvili (J Caudullo, 60), M Ladhuie (N Leleimalefaga, 62), M Bustos, M Demarco (D Hancke, 64), J Tuineau, V Bost (A Tulou, 62), M Matadigo (Demarco, 78), R Martin (capt; Bost, 73).
Bath N Abendanon; O Woodburn, O Barkley (A Perenise, 63-73), M Banahan, T Biggs; T Heathcote, M Claassens; C Beech (D Flatman, 63), R Batty (P Dixon, 63), D Wilson (Perenise, 73), D Attwood, R Caldwell, B Skirving (G Mercer, 63), S Taylor, F Louw (capt).
Referee D Phillips (Ireland).
Tries: Bérard, Tulou, Nagusa
Cons: Paillaugue 2, Bustos Moyana
Tries: Caldwell 2, Banahan
Cons: Barkley, Heathcote