Pollard makes injury return as Montpellier reach Challenge Cup final

SOUTH AFRICA’S RUGBY World Cup winner Handre Pollard made his first appearance since September as Montpellier reached the European Challenge Cup final with a 19-10 win at Bath on Saturday.

Fly-half Pollard, who suffered a serious knee injury in just his second game of the season, came off the bench in the second half to kick a late penalty for the Top 14 strugglers.

Montpellier, the 2016 Challenge Cup winners, will face Leicester in the final on May 21 at Twickenham, where up to 10,000 fans will be present.

Home coach Stuart Hooper named Zach Mercer, who will join the French club next season, at No. 8.

Pollard was joined by two other World Cup winners in scrum-half Cobus Reinach, and hooker Bismarck Du Plessis on the visitors’ bench.

The English outfit led 7-0 after just five minutes as prop Tom Dunn crossed and scrum-half Ben Spencer slotted a conversion.

Philippe Saint-Andre’s French side then sparked into life and led 10-7 after Benoit Paillaugue set-up Yacouba Camara for a fine effort.

Montpellier held onto the lead at the break after Paillaugue and Spencer exchanged penalties to make it 16-10.

Bath pressed on inside the away side’s 22m with 25 minutes left and away prop Enzo Forletta was sin-binned for infringing at a ruck.

Pollard, 27, then made his return with 22 minutes to go, almost eight months after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, and his first involvement was an up and under which he failed to gather.

Du Plessis, a World Cup winner in 2007 with the Springboks, also came onto the field and won two incredible penalties at the breakdown with the home side on top.

Despite Bath’s efforts in search of a try and place in the final, a first since 2014, Montpellier defended well to hold onto the victory and Pollard kicked a penalty in added time.

The French side’s focus now turns to hosting La Rochelle next weekend and securing their Top 14 status, as they are just four points from the relegation play-off.