European Challenge Cup final: Harlequins 19-26 Montpellier
|European Challenge Cup final|
|Harlequins (9) 19|
|Try: Yarde Con: Botica Pens: Evans 3, Botica|
|Montpellier (13) 26|
|Tries: Mogg 2 Cons: Catrakilis 2 Pens: Catrakilis 4|
Conor O'Shea's six-year reign in charge of Harlequins came to an end with a battling defeat by Montpellier in the European Challenge Cup final in Lyon.
Jesse Mogg's well-constructed try put the Top 14 high-flyers 10 points ahead, only for three Nick Evans kicks to drag the score back to 13-9 at half-time.
But Mogg's second touchdown and Demetri Catrakilis' accuracy from the tee put Montpellier in command after the break.
The French side held on to lift the cup despite Marland Yarde's late try.
The match ended in bizarre circumstances when, with 80 minutes already up on the clock and Quins looking to mount one final attack from deep, replacement fly-half Ben Botica, who is joining the French side next season, kicked the ball long into opposition territory.
That gifted Montpellier possession and gave them the opportunity to launch the ball out of play and secure the trophy.
The result means Harlequins, who finished seventh in the Premiership following a brutal 62-24 last-day loss to Exeter Chiefs, will again miss out on Champions Cup rugby next season.
Their London rivals Saracens face Dan Carter's Racing 92 in the top-tier European final at Grand Stade de Lyon on Saturday.
No silverware on O'Shea's swansong
O'Shea, who represented Ireland 35 times as a player, took over at The Stoop in the aftermath of the 2010 'Bloodgate' scandal that resulted in Dean Richards' resignation.
Since then, the 45-year-old has guided Quins to a first-ever Premiership title, the LV= Cup and Challenge Cup success in 2011 - all while playing a brand of rugby that has only further enhanced his own burgeoning reputation as a top-class coach.
But the former London Irish back, who will now take charge of Italy, admitted that "you don't write your own scripts" after falling short of adding a second European trophy in the Rhone-Alpes region.
"There are always regrets but you have to look back on the achievements," he told BBC Radio 5 live. "I've seen a load of people grow up in front of my eyes and I am proud to call them friends as well as colleagues. That's sport.
"They played outstandingly for each other tonight. They will be back."
Quins out-muscled by Montpellier
Montpellier, currently second in the Top 14 table, two places above Champions Cup finalists Racing, displayed every inch of their notorious power and muscle against Harlequins.
Led by South African World Cup-winning coach Jake White, they went in front thanks to Mogg's fine first-half try and proved ruthless front-runners in what was their first major European final.
It may still have been different had Kiwi fly-half Evans not wasted an opportunity to reduce the deficit to one point from the tee, a miss only compounded by Mogg's second try soon after and Catrakilis' own kicking accuracy.
Yarde's 72nd-minute converted score and Botica's penalty did give Quins a further glimmer of hope, but Montpellier saw the closing stages out to take the title.
Harlequins: Brown; Yarde, Lowe, Roberts, Visser; Evans, Care (capt); Marler, Gray, Jones, Horwill, Twomey, Robshaw, Wallace, Easter.
Replacements: Ward, Lambert, Sinckler, Luamanu, Clifford, Dickson, Botica, Chisholm.
Montpellier: Fall; Nagusa, Tuitavake, Steyn, O'Connor; Catrakilis, White; Nariashvili, B. Du Plessis, Jannie Du Plessis, Jacques Du Plessis, Willemse, Ouedraogo (capt), Qera, Spies.
Replacements: Ivaldi, Watremez, Kubriashvili, Timani, Galletier, Paillaugue, Ebersohn, Mogg.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)