Montpellier 26 Saints 17: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings
Saints may not have won in Montpellier last night, but they did something they failed to do in their first two Champions Cup away games: they competed.
And not only that, but they played a bit, too.
Though they were eventually overpowered, especially by behemoth wing Nemani Nadolo, Jim Mallinder’s men could claim some pride from their final European clash of the season.
This was no 41-7 catastrophe at Castres, no 60-13 drubbing in Dublin.
At times, Saints had a largely full-strength Montpellier team on the rack.
The likes of Teimana Harrison and Lee Dickson were running the show and, had George North’s try early in the second half not been ruled out, the result may have been different.
As it was, Nadolo bullied Saints out of it, bulldozing the men in white with relentless abandon.
The Fijian wing sparked comparisons with the great Jonah Lomu, especially after shoving his way through five Saints players to score a stunning try.
Yes, Saints will feel they should have stopped him, with JJ Hanrahan probably particularly disappointed that he didn’t go low at the start of the surge.
But until you have tried to stop Nadolo, you don’t really know how tough it is.
To the onlooker it is like watching cars on a motorway go full speed towards a rabbit in the headlights.
Like a father who takes a dads versus kids game too seriously and just knocks everyone over.
Like Boris Johnson at a rugby-related event, flying towards bewildered children.
You get the point.
But the fact Nadolo was so good is almost a reason for solace for Saints.
It may be a bit ‘three cheers for Ramirez’ in the Mike Bassett: England Manager film, but the wing was worthy of immense credit.
And the other members of the Montpellier team didn’t frighten Mallinder’s men.
That is something to take forward for this group of players in the coming weeks.
The same men who, with a few rested players added, will be asked to go to Welford Road and produce another gritty and entertaining display in the Anglo-Welsh Cup next Saturday.
And having coped with the might of Montpellier for long periods, they can be confident in their bid to tame the Tigers.
How they rated...
Was unlucky that the officials deemed his foot was in touch because his offload to North was eye-catching and he had preceded it with a fine burst from close to halfway... 6
JUAN PABLO ESTELLES
Loves an offload and managed to keep Montpellier on their toes with his fast hands while also trying to deal with Nadolo... 7
The Tongan centre came in for his first Saints start and it was tough, with the home side looking dangerous early on, but he showed character... 6
Showed his confidence with one drop goal attempt from close to halfway and combined quite well with Hanrahan... 6
Thought he had given Saints some breathing space, but his effort was ruled out and Nadolo gave his opponents a tough time... 6
Controlled the game well when Saints were on top and kicked the points he needed to, battling on after taking a knock... 7
The skipper was a real livewire for Saints, keeping the tempo high, and he showed great intelligence to find his way over the line... 8
His run and offload for Dickson’s try was eye-catching and the prop will have added to the disappointment of fans wanting Saints to keep him beyond this summer... 7
The young hooker has gained some useful experience this season and he was assured until being replaced... 6
Has started to carry more often in recent weeks and he tried to take the fight to Montpellier, especially late in the first half... 7
His power was important against a Montpellier side full of it and the Fiji lock will benefit from more game time in the coming weeks... 6
Took Montpellier on in the set piece, with his lineout expertise useful, but the French team eventually got back on track to win the game... 6
Moved into the back row at late notice after Jamie Gibson was forced to withdraw and did little wrong... 6
Always impresses whenever he gets a chance for Saints, and this was no different, with the flanker producing an all-action display... 7
Another huge display from the back row forward, who carried superbly and matched Montpellier’s physicality, sending a real message to England boss Eddie Jones... 8
Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)
JAMES FISH (for Clare 58)
A tough game for the young hooker to come into, but he didn’t do too much wrong and will benefit from the experience... 6
TOM KESSELL (for Dickson 58)
Showed good awareness and handling to pick the ball up and sprint to the line to score Saints’ second try... 7
KEN PISI (for Estelles 58)
Made one vital tackle on the previously unstoppable Nadolo, but was eventually beaten by the Fijian despite giving his all... 6
CHRON STAR MAN - Nemani Nadolo (Montpellier)