Ntamack double sinks Montpellier on Kolbe's Toulouse return

Paris (AFP) –


France's Romain Ntamack scored twice as Rugby World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe made his Toulouse return in a 23-9 victory over Montpellier that stretched their advantage at the top of Pool 5 in the European Champions Cup.

Centre Ntamack, 20, crossed each side of the interval at a rain-drenched Stade Ernest-Wallon before Springbok Kolbe come on as a substitute to play his first club match since lifting the Webb Ellis trophy last month.

"I'm really happy with the collective effort, we played very well even if they were the same weather conditions as we had in Connacht," Ntamack told broadcasters France 2.

"The bench played their part superbly. Among the backs we try and make the most of the forwards' efforts."

The record four-time champions sit six points clear at the top of the standings after Welsh teenager Louis Rees-Zammit dotted down for second-placed Gloucester, who kept their hopes of a quarter-final place alive by beating Connacht 26-17 earlier in the day.

France full-back Thomas Ramos handed the hosts a 6-0 lead after 23 minutes with two penalty goals.

Ntamack's first try of the game came on the 35-minute mark after multiple pick and goes from the home side's forwards near the Montpellier line.

The visitors trailed 10-3 at the break as Benoit Paillaugue slotted a penalty two minutes before half-time.

Kolbe's fellow World Cup winner Frans Steyn closed the gap to 10-6 a minute after the interval with a long-range effort.

Ntamack's second of the match and his fourth in three European appearances this season came as he ran in an interception from a Steyn pass to hand his side a 20-6 lead with half an hour to play.

Scrum-half Paillaugue added his second penalty of proceedings four minutes later.

Kolbe was given a standing ovation by the Ernest-Wallon crowd on 56 minutes and came close to crossing shortly after but was tackled into touch.

Last season's semi-finalists closed the game off in wet conditions as Ramos slotted his third penalty with 10 minutes to maintain Toulouse's unbeaten record after three rounds of the tournament.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg claimed his first Exeter Chiefs try as they overcame Sale Sharks 22-20 to continue the Pool 2 leaders' impressive start to the campaign.

On Saturday Saracens, who have been fined and deducted points in the English Premiership for salary cap irregularities, suffered a blow to their title defence losing 10-3 at Munster.