Toulouse extend home dominance in Top 14 Rugby

Four-time Heineken Cup champions Toulouse remained unbeatable at their Ernest-Wallon
fortress this league season with a 19-12 victory over Top 14 leaders Clermont
on Sunday.

A mouth-watering match-up between the most successful team in French rugby
history and the current consensus best in the business promised much, particularly
during an intriguing first period, but ultimately failed to live up to expectations
as it petered out into a turgid second half.

The win, though, was crucial for Toulouse as they moved up to fourth in the
table with a ninth home win out of nine this season, offsetting their appalling
away form that has seen them lose every one of seven trips.

“It’s good to beat the leaders Clermont during this period where we weren’t
playing very good rugby,” said Toulouse captain Thierry Dusautoir.

“That gives us a boost before the visit of Saracens (in the European
Cup next weekend).”

Such was their struggles to breach Toulouse’s impregnable defence that Clermont
seemed to settle for a losing bonus point that took them three-points clear
of second-placed Stade Francais.

It was a disappointing end to what promised so much in a blistering opening.

With a clever hitch-step, wing Yoann Huget found a gap down the side of a
ruck, on the inside of cumbersome lock Julien Pierre, before flipping the ball
inside to Maxime Medard to go over next to the posts on 12 minutes for the only
try of the match.

Although Huget’s pass bounced a couple of yards in front of where he’d let
go of the ball, before Medard picked it up and went over, the video referee
applied the new rules, allowing the score to stand as Huget’s hand movement
had been in a backward direction when he released the ball.

That try, converted by fly-half Jean-Marc Doussain, was sandwiched by two
penalties from visiting No.10 Brock James, giving the hosts a 7-6 lead.

It was a brutally entertaining contest with maximum commitment from all sides,
emphasised by a huge, crunching tackle by former All Black Benson Stanley on
Huget.

The closest Clermont came to a try was in the 28th minute as centre Wesley
Fofana made a break in the Toulouse 22, only to be hauled down a metre short
by centre Clement Poitrenaud when a pop pass to his outside would surely have
yielded a try for Stanley.

“We have regrets. We gave away a lot of turnovers and that doesn’t get
forgiven,” said Fofana.

“It was a very physical match (but) we go home home with something, that’s
better than nothing.”

Jean-Marc Doussain extended Toulouse’s lead six minutes from the break with
a penalty but a huge kick from Australian James from wide out left that just
dipped over the bar brought the gap back to a single point.

Then a 50-metre break from another former All Black Hosea Gear eventually
led to a penalty for the hosts a minute before half-time, with Doussain kicking
a second penalty.

Toulouse extended their lead at the start of the second half after a period
of sustained pressure inside Clermont’s 22 as Doussain found time and space
to knock over a drop-goal.

Shortly afterwards, James came up just short with another long-range penalty.

Gear did go over in the left corner on 52 minutes after Yann David had looped
around the back of a posse of forwards but the score was chalked off for blocking
by the Toulouse pack.

Toulouse were managing to keep Clermont pinned deep down in their own territory
and the league leaders hardly had a sniff of an attacking opportunity as Dussain
added another penalty.

But six minutes from time New Zealander Mike Delaney, on as a replacement
for James, kicked a penalty to earn Clermont a bonus point.

Stade Francais maintained second place with an 18-

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