Montpellier thrashed by Leinster as Ulster qualify in Champions Cup
Montpellier crashed to the worst defeat ever suffered by a French side in European Champions Cup history on Sunday when they were thrashed 89-7 by Irish province Leinster.
French pride was salvaged in part by teenage full-back Louis Bielle-Biarrey who scored a hat-trick in Bordeaux-Begles' 45-10 win over Welsh side Scarlets while the Irish had further cause for celebration when Ulster booked their place in the last 16 with a 24-20 win at Northampton.
Four-time winners Leinster scored 13 tries -- Montpellier's sole try scorer Masivesi Dakuwaqa was sent off in the second-half -- against a side which had to field academy players due to the number of Covid-19 cases in the first team squad.
Nevertheless it was quite a statement from a Leinster side that had not played since December 11.
They had been aggrieved when the competition organisers awarded Montpellier a 28-0 victory in their match in France last month after it was cancelled due to Covid cases in the Irish side.
Man-of-the-match Josh van der Flier scored a brace of tries as did fellow Ireland back rower Jack Conan with Leinster recording their largest margin of victory in the competition.
It bettered the previous record, a 92-13 defeat of another French side Bourgoin in 2004.
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell will have been delighted to see Irish captain Johnny Sexton return to action for the first time since the victory over New Zealand on November 13.
He came on for Ross Byrne and landed five conversions.
Leinster are up to third in their pool and a second successive bonus point victory against English side Bath next week will ensure a place in the last 16 and keep them in the hunt for one of the top spots and home advantage.
They did not emerge unscathed from the game, though, with star prop Tadhg Furlong limping off after just five minutes and captain James Ryan had to pull out due to a hamstring problem.
- Ulster qualify -
Leinster may still be short of qualifying but Ulster became the fourth team after Racing 92, Leicester and Bristol to secure their places in the last 16.
Tries from wing Robert Baloucoune and scrum-half Nathan Doak gave Ulster an early 12-0 lead and after Dan Biggar finished off a team move to bring Northampton back into it, full-back Michael Lowry touched down to make it 19-10 at the break.
In a tight second half, Lowry scored again before Rory Hutchinson's late try earned Northampton a losing bonus point.
Northampton lie tenth in Group A, two places outside the top eight that qualify for the last 16.
Bordeaux, meanwhile, are fifth in Group B after running in seven tries at the Stade Chaban-Delmas in their bonus points win over Scarlets.
Eighteen-year-old full-back Bielle-Biarrey, playing in just his second senior game and making his first start, scored a hat-trick and there were further tries from Cameron Woki, Geoffrey Cross, Maxime Lamothe, and Nans Ducuing.
Liam Williams and Gareth Davies touched down for Scarlets.
On Satuday, Racing beat Welsh region Ospreys 25-10, Bristol got the better of Stade Francais 28-17 and Leicester came from 18 points behind to edge Irish province Connacht 29-28.
There was also a surprise defeat for defending champions Toulouse -- Wasps prevailing 30-22 even with playing 45 minutes with just 14 men.
Full-back Jacob Umaga was sent off for a dangerous tackle.
"That took a lot of effort. When you go down to 14 men, especially when it's someone in the backfield, you have to manage the game," said Wasps head coach Lee Blackett.
Later on Sunday, Japan full-back Kotaro Matsushima is set to start for Clermont at home to Sale.