Stephen Myler the hero for Northampton as they pip Montpellier
Stephen Myler landed an injury-time penalty to give Northampton a winning start to their Champions Cup campaign in a 16-14 victory over Montpellier at Franklin's Gardens.
Myler was on target in the final act of the game to ensure Saints' domestic malaise, consisting of four defeats in six Aviva Premiership matches, was not carried into Europe.
France number eight Louis Picamoles was outstanding once again and finished as man of the match, but it was Myler who landed the killer blow after Montpellier scrum-half Nic White had failed to put the ball into touch.
Montpellier, who sit second in the French league, fielded a gigantic starting XV with a large South African contingent and their bench was every bit as imposing, but Saints camped in their 22 in the final 10 minutes and were eventually rewarded.
The result will have eased the anxiety at Franklin's Gardens caused by a poor start to the season which saw attack coach Alex King, who was linked with England less than 12 months ago, leave the club on Friday.
Northampton, who withdrew Courtney Lawes from the team before kick-off, surged ahead after two minutes, luckily rescuing a stray line-out before Harry Mallinder spotted a chink in the visiting defence and raced into the hole.
Once tackled he passed over the top to Picamoles on the left touchline and the back row powered through two defenders before slipping a superb offload to Calum Clark who slipped over.
Mallinder's influential start continued as he pick-pocketed lock Paul Willemse when Montpellier were on the brink of scoring and strong defence from Saints continued to keep them at bay.
The lead extended to 10 points when Myler landed a penalty to accompany his earlier conversion and it looked like being Northampton's night when full-back Benjamin Fall declined a two-man overlap to go it alone only to fall inches short.
But Montpellier were not so wasteful when the whitewash beckoned next with Nemani Nadolo slipping a clever pass to Joffrey Michel and the replacement full-back timed his scoring pass to Frans Steyn perfectly.
A burst of speed and agile footwork from Picamoles enabled Northampton to turn defence in to attack and after briefly threatening from a five-metre scrum they were able to secure three more points through Myler's boot.
Picamoles' off-loading was proving infections as he produced another pass out of the tackle and then saw Sam Dickinson do the same as Saints launched a counter-attack.
Steyn reduced the deficit to two points with a penalty to set-up a finely-poised final quarter, but the South African centre was subsequently guilty of missing the simplest of kicks.
Mallinder missed touch and Montpellier were able to launch a counter that ended with Steyn finding his mark and edging his men in front, his two penalties going alongside one from Ben Botica.
Northampton spent all of the last 10 minutes in the visiting half and when George North broke and chipped ahead, the line beckoned but Montpellier's defence scrambled in time.
Mallinder fell short with a long-range penalty but with the final whistle about to blow, Myler hit the mark.