They were rained on, trampled on, bullied and barged, but Montauban refused to submit to a second beating on consecutive Saturdays at the hands of Sale. The Sharks banked five tries at home but never looked like scoring one away and Montauban, hosting an English club in the Heineken Cup for the first time, worked hard for their win.
Their next visitors are Munster, but the prospects for the New Year are not entirely bad. Montauban lost to the champions at Thomond Park in the first match of the whole competition but the margin was only two points.
This could be a very costly loss for Sale, who have already lost at home to Munster and are yet to play in Limerick. Montauban have other things than progress from Pool One on their minds, like the announcement earlier in the week that their coaches, Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit, will be packing their bags at the end of the season and heading east to Castres. But the two Laurents made it clear before this match that they remain committed to Montauban and added that they had two ambitions; to win a Heineken Cup match and to retain their place in the domestic Top 14. One down, one to go.
This was no night for elegant rugby. It was treacherous underfoot and the ball was slippery, but still this little stadium was nearly full to see the first blood go to Sale, as Charlie Hodgson kicked the first of two first-half penalties. But all was not well for a Sale pack which expected to control the game. Their line-out lost five in a row as the flanker Neil Briggs, who later moved up to hooker when Marc Jones went off, took over the throwing duties. In what was proving a rather subdued return to action by the England prop Andrew Sheridan, the eight men in green and black were unwilling to be subdued.
Montauban were prone to giving away penalties when in a good attacking positions, until Cédric Rosalen's boot evened the score. Then the Sale prop Eifion Lewis-Roberts spilled a pass from Hodgson and Montauban's left wing, Vilimoni Delasau, pounced, chipped, chased and touched down. Rosalen converted and home hopes rose.
Many of the Sale players opted for fresh shirts to start the second half but there were no fresh tactics. Hodgson continued to push Montauban back with a succession of kicks. He also punished some back-chat from Jean-Philippe Viard with a penalty, his fourth, from near halfway. That put Sale within a point.
But the kick was the only attacking ploy they had and when they gave away a penalty on their own 22, in front of the posts and with just three minutes left, the responsibility fell on Montauban's Romanian replacement scrum-half, Petre Mitu. His kick made a little bit of history.
Montauban: S Jonnet; Y Audrin, J Viard, M Avramovic, V Delasau (J-E Cassin, 61); C Rosalen (R Lespinas, 68), F Culinat (P Mitu, 57); B Balan (G Schvelidze, 46), B Mach (Balan, 73), S Florea (N Adams, 64), M Rolland, R Frost (K Ghezal, 70), Y Caballero, A Battut (M Clarkin, 42), M Raynaud (capt).
Sale: M Tait (C Bell, 60) ; M Cueto, A Tuilagi (R Keil, 70), L McAlister, D Doherty; C Hodgson, R Wigglesworth; A Sheridan (L Faure, 64), M Jones (B Cockbain, 54), E Lewis-Roberts (S Turner, 52), S Chabal, D Schofield, L Abraham, J Fernandez Lobbe (capt), N Briggs.
Referee: P Allan (Scotland).Reuse content