Toulouse power past Connacht
November 19, 2011
Nyanga crossed the line for Toulouse in the second-half
© Getty Images
Toulouse fly-half Lionel Beauxis kicked 21 points as Connacht were beaten 36-10 in their first ever home match in the Heineken Cup.
A record crowd of 9,120 turned up at the Sportsground to watch Eric Elwood's men take on the four-time European champions, who fielded a star-studded line-up in this Pool 6 encounter. The French giants managed to quieten the home support with an assured first half display, Lionel Beauxis proving accurate with the boot and Jean Bouilhou claiming a try.
Miah Nikora opened Connacht's account while Mike McCarthy was in the sin-bin for a high tackle, and the 22-3 half-time deficit grew as Toulouse remained in control. A controversially awarded penalty try put the result beyond any doubt and although Connacht gained a penalty try themselves, Yannick Nyanga barged through for the visitors' third and final try.
Toulouse were first to threaten following an opportunist break from Luke Burgess. His half-back partner Beauxis landed a sixth minute penalty, rewarding his forwards for a solid scrum hit. And returning winger Maxime Medard was called back for a forward pass as he charged over the halfway line.
Connacht hardly put a foot wrong in the opening quarter - their captain Gavin Duffy led by example in that regard - but Toulouse's quality out wide and at set piece time was glaringly obvious. Medard got another chance to stretch his legs before Beauxis kicked the visitors 9-0 ahead and worse followed for the Irish province in the 22nd minute.
Toulouse wheeled a Connacht scrum, Thierry Dusautoir put enough pressure on Paul O'Donohoe for the ball to break free and Louis Picamoles and Dusautoir both carried forward before Bouilhou squeezed over from inches out. Duffy rose highest to claim the restart and young Connacht centres David McSharry and Eoin Griffin sniped in and around the Toulouse 22, raising the decibel level considerably.
But the hosts suffered another setback on the half hour mark when McCarthy caught the onrushing Vincent Clerc with a neck-high challenge and was promptly sin-binned. Nikora slotted a penalty from in front of the posts to get Connacht off the mark, before Toulouse's dominant scrum yielded three more points for Beauxis.
Seven minutes into the second half, referee Greg Garner earned the ire of the home fans when he awarded Toulouse a penalty try after just one wheeled scrum. The French side had the platform of a five-metre scrum and as it spun around the English official gave the verdict to the visitors, with Beauxis adding the extras.
The remainder of the game was played in worsening weather conditions.
Credit must go to Connacht, they exerted more of an influence with McCarthy stealing a few lineouts and their bench having an impact. McSharry and Duffy showed huge commitment in attack and defence and a Duffy-sparke move almost saw replacement hooker Ethienne Reynecke crash over for a try.
McCarthy spilled the ball in contact with the try-line in sight and Toulouse closed out the tie on top, maintaining their grip on top spot in Pool 6. Reynecke saw yellow for taking Luke McAlister out as he chased his own kick, and Nyanga, one of a flood of second half replacements, went on a bulldozing run to touch down with three minutes left.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham