Nyanga seals dramatic Toulouse victory
April 10, 2011
Maxime Medard scored one of two first-half tries for Toulouse
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Toulouse held their nerve to beat Biarritz 27-20 after extra time in their Heineken Cup quarter-final clash at the Estadio Anoeta in San Sebastien on Saturday.
Yannick Nyanga dived in to score the decisive try after 98 minutes of attritional rugby played under leaden skies and heavy rain, the replacement flanker having charged down Dimitri Yachvili's clearance kick.
The Biarritz scrum-half had moments earlier landed a penalty to level the scores at 20-20, his side having recovered from 17-0 down at the break to force the extra 20 minutes.
Yachvili finished with 15 points but missed the conversion to Ilikena Bolakoro's 78th minute try, handing Toulouse a reprieve after a palpable dip in standards from the visitors in the second-half.
Guy Noves' side sprang out of the traps in the opening period with tries to Cedric Heymans and Maxime Medard, while fly-half David Skrela contributed 10 points in an otherwise forgettable performance. Their reward for toughing out the re-run of last season's final will be a Dublin clash with 2009 champions Leinster.
After a slow start from both sides Toulouse changed gears in the blink of an eye to open the scoring, with Heymans crashing over after 15 minutes. Vincent Clerc outfoxed the Biarritz midfield with a brilliant step and offloaded to his fullback at full-tilt, Heymans stepping Iain Balshaw with ease and riding the challenge of Takudzwa Ngwenya to score.
Skrela added the extras but was briefly forced off soon after following a heavy clash of heads with Biarritz's rampaging lock Erik Lund. Nicolas Bezy shifted into the fly-half spot and had a major hand in Toulouse's second try, scored by Medard. Clerc worked hard to chase a high ball and did enough to force the mistake from Bolakoro, with Bezy snaffling the ball and rifling a cross-kick into the arms of his winger before adding the conversion for a 14-0 lead after 25 minutes.
Biarritz chanced their arm through Imanol Harinordoquy and Yachvili but were unable to generate any momentum against some tough-hitting defence, with Skrela adding a penalty just before the break, having recovered from his knock.
Yachvili kicked two penalties in the opening five minutes of the second-half, also missing one, as Toulouse's exemplary standards slipped. Biarritz were happy to put boot to ball in pursuit of an error as conditions worsened, and their scrum-half began to get the upper hand as Skrela failed to dictate terms for the away side.
One such punt earned Biarritz a scrum just outside their opponents' 22 and they surged forward through Raphael Lakafia and Harinordoquy, with the skipper hammered in a double tackle seconds after referee Wayne Barnes had signalled advantage for offside. Yachvili landed the penalty just before the hour mark to leave doubts circling over the champions.
Their response was simple, yet effective as Skrela finally managed to find territory with a boot from hand. Toulouse showed little ambition but with some luck, as Clement Poitrenaud claimed a poor high kick, they were able to draw a five-metre scrum when Ngewnya was pressurised in goal. To sum up their half however, Skrela missed with a poor attempted drop-goal and Biarritz cleared, Heymans coughing up a knock-on.
At the ensuing scrum Biarritz secured a penalty, which was slotted by Yachvili on 68 minutes to make it a five-point game, and Toulouse's wobble soon sent them spiralling towards a nightmare final 10 minutes. Skrela put the restart out on the full and at the scrum Yachvili stepped his way upfield, his charge sending Marcelo Bosch on an angle to the corner. The Pumas centre was stopped short but as Biarritz looked to recycle, Florian Fritz could not resist a bite at the ball and was sin-binned.
Biarritz turned to their dominant scrum in search of a penalty try but their luck ran out as Toulouse found one huge shove to turn the ball over and clear the imminent danger. Unfortunately for their travelling fans the self-destruct button was wheeled out once again moments from the end, where Skrela's lazy clearance was charged down, allowing Bolakoro to collect and crash over in the corner. The Fijian winger's failure to ground the ball close to the posts proved costly however, as Yachvili's missed conversion heralded extra time.
Biarritz handed three points to Toulouse on a plate at the start of extra time when Ngwenya failed to claim a kick, with the resulting penalty being dispatched by Skrela. Biarritz had a chance of their own to level the scores when Toulouse's lineout went missing, but from the scrum Yachvili could only fire a poorly-judged drop-goal wide of the uprights.
Yachvili levelled the scores with minutes remaining as Toulouse's tired pack failed to retreat, but there was a sting in the tail for the hosts. A draw would have handed the game to the away side on the number of tries scored but Nyanga made sure by charging Yachvili down, his swan dive sparking wild celebrations for the reigning champions.
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