10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Emulating last season's heroics away to Castres in the pool stages, five penalties from Ruan Pienaar and a penalty and conversion by Paddy Jackson made all the difference against the much-fancied Frenchmen.
Montpellier proved somewhat off-colour during much of this Pool 5 encounter, and will be disappointed to relinquish their unbeaten home record in the Heineken Cup in such a manner.
Jonathan Pelissie had got Montpellier off the mark with a third minute penalty, but Ulster made most of the early running and crafted a beautiful try on 10 minutes with sublime interplay from Trimble and Tommy Bowe down the left wing, after Darren Cave had found Trimble with a defence-splitting pass.
The Coleraine man supplied Bowe on his inside, then picked up again from his fellow winger a metre from the line, showing the presence of mind to run inside and ground the ball closer to the posts and make Jackson's conversion the simplest of tasks.
Ulster could have sailed into a 10-point lead by the 15-minute mark, but both half-backs missed with long range kicks as Montpellier infringed twice in as many minutes.
Firstly, Pienaar struck an upright from just inside the hosts' half and with Pelissie soon penalised for a premature tackle on his opposite number as he tried to fish the ball out of the scrum, Jackson's effort also sailed wide.
Pienaar missed once more from the left wing on 27 minutes, but Ulster continued to control the game with Jared Payne impressing in midfield with an scintillating solo raid which turned the Montpellier defence inside out before the eventual recipient of the ball, Chris Henry, got himself isolated in the tackle and the French were able to clear.
Montpellier - so impressive in their Top 14 displays this season - showed little invention or guile as the first half progressed, Francois Trinh-Duc resorting to a desperate drop goal attempt which looped well wide just before the break, which, when it came, saw the home side jeered off the pitch by the crowd at Stade Yves du Manoir.
Fabien Galthié's half-time team-talk seemed to have had its desired effect on his players, as Montpellier came out as a different beast in the second period.
After enjoying their best spell of possession in the first five minutes of the half, however, the French front row collapsed a scrum on halfway and Pienaar punished the infringement with a fine kick from the very limit of his range.
Undaunted, Montpellier began to string some probing passes together from the restart, only undone with an unfortunate knock on in the Ulster 22.
John Afoa came on for Declan Fitzpatrick on 48 minutes, and the visitors were under immediate pressure as the huge French forwards piled forth, creating the space for Trinh-Duc to find Yoan Audrin in the corner.
The winger touched down under a pair of Ulster tackles and although the score went unconverted, Mark Anscombe's charges were left to rue those three missed penalties from the first half, with their opponents now only two points adrift.
However, Ulster's place-kickers now came back into form at exactly the right moment. Pienaar kept the scoreboard ticking over with a 53rd minute penalty.
With Iain Henderson replacing Robbie Diack in the back row, Ulster missed a golden opportunity after a steal from an alert Henry saw Tom Court pound his way down the right wing. The prop carried well, but Trinh-Duc intercepted the final pass just shy of the line, and was able to clear.
Ulster nosed their way further ahead on the hour mark courtesy of another Pienaar penalty, but the hosts came close moments later with a well-organised rolling maul which Dan Tuohy was fortunate to steal the ball from. Replacement Stuart Olding was able to clear the danger with a fine kick to touch.
Stubborn defence was now the order of the day for Ulster, the visitors doing well to come out of an intense 10-minute period of French pressure with no concessions.
Indeed, it was Pienaar who was next to register with a 70th minute penalty, leaving Montpellier needing at least three separate scores to rescue the tie.
The first should have come two minutes later, when a great break found replacement Benoit Sicart a metre from the try-line where a try-saving tackle from Jackson not only prevented the score, but freed the ball for first Trimble and then Pienaar to mount a counter attack.
This surge was stopped illegally by Montpellier as they retreated, allowing Pienaar to put the result beyond doubt with his fifth successful penalty of the afternoon.
Ulster even saw out the game deep in Montpellier territory, Jackson providing the icing on the cake in the very last minute with a neat penalty from the left wing after his own smart kick to the corner had effectively put paid to any French hopes of a consolation score.
Anscombe's side now have eight points at the top of Pool 5, with home and away clashes with Benetton Treviso to follow in December.
|Montpellier Score Card|
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|