Ulster stay alive with Toulouse victory

Ruan Pienaar tackles David Mele

Ulster kept their hopes of reaching the European Rugby Champions Cup alive by beating Toulouse 23-25 at Stade Ernest Wallon.

Irish side Ulster went out to a 3-10 lead by half time thanks to a try from Ruan Pienaar which was converted by Paddy Jackson who also added a penalty.

Toulouse came back in the second half and outscored Ulster by 20 points to 15 but their first half deficit was their undoing.

The result effectively knocks the record four-time titleholders Toulouse out of the competition.

Irish province Ulster still trail runaway Pool 1 leaders Saracens by 10 points, albeit with a game in hand, after the English side crushed Oyonnax 55-13 on Saturday.

But a second victory from three games for Ulster keeps them in the quarter-final race while the 25-23 reverse on Sunday ended Toulouse’s interest after three defeats from four matches.

Tries from Ruan Pienaar, Andrew Trimble and Luke Marshall put Ulster in the driving seat despite home scores from Gael Fickou and Louis Picamoles.

Ulster captain Rory Best hailed his teammates’ commitment.

He said: “We knew it was going to be a very tough place to come and win and that proved to be the case.

“But the way the boys fought back against their momentum with our defence and our willingness to get back into the line was great, I can’t ask for more as a captain.”

“We’re not the biggest team, we don’t have players who weigh 130 kilos, but what we do have is a lot of heart, a lot of fitness and a very good skill level in the forwards with some exciting backs,” he added.

Best’s opposite number, Toulouse skipper Thierry Dusautoir, commented: “We made some bad choices but this game was largely ours to win, it’s a huge disappointment to be knocked out.”

Toulouse came into the game smarting from last weekend’s humiliating 38-0 reverse in Ireland.

But despite dominating ball and territory in the first half, they paid for a lack of subtilty.

Fly-half Paddy Jackson kicked an early penalty for Ulster, who then defended doggedly to keep a predictable Toulouse at bay.

And when the Irish province made a rare foray into the French 22, they made it count.

Ulster’s forwards bludgeoned their way up to the line until confusion reigned in the Toulouse defence, allowing South African scrum-half Pienaar to pick the ball up from the back of a ruck and dive over unopposed.

Jackson, who converted the try, was then sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on as Toulouse rumbled towards the Irish line.

Sebastien Bezy kicked a penalty for the hosts but disaster almost struck for Toulouse right at the end of the half against the 14 men.

Pushing for a late score beyond the half-time hooter, Toulouse lost possession and Ulster hit them with a remarkable length-of-the-field counter-attack that culminated with Rory Scholes crossing the whitewash.

But that was ruled out for a forward pass from Trimble earlier in the move, although Ulster still went back to the changing rooms leading 10-3.

Bezy kicked a second penalty early in the second half but right after Jackson returned to the pitch, Ulster centre Stuart McCloskey made a stunning break through the middle and with Toulouse’s scrambling defence back-tracking, Trimble dived over in the corner.

Toulouse then found themselves just two points behind after Fickou scored with Bezy converting.

Andy Warwick gave away a penalty and Bezy kicked Toulouse into a 16-15 lead.

But a Jackson penalty restored Ulster’s lead before late on a clever inside pass from Alan O’Connor set up Marshall for the killer third try.

Final Score Toulouse 23 (3) Ulster 25 (10)

Scorers

Toulouse
Tries – Fickou, Picamoles
Pen – Bezy 3
Con – Bezy, Doussain
Drop –

Ulster
Tries – Pienaar, Trimble, L Marshall
Pen – Jackson 2
Con – Jackson 2
Drop –

Match Officials
Referee: JP Doyle (England),
Assistant ref: Darren Gamage (England),
Assistant ref: Paul Burton (England),
TMO: David Grashoff (England),
Citing Commissioner: Buster White (England)

Teams

Toulouse: Alexis Palisson; Kunatani Kunabuli, Gael Fickou, Florian Fritz, Timoci Matanavou; Jean-Marc Doussain, Sébastien Bézy; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Census Johnston, Gregory Lamboley, Yoann Maestri, Yacouba Camara, Thierry Dusautoir (c), Imanol Harinordoquy

Replacements: Christopher Tolofua, Gurthro Steenkamp, Gert Muller, Joe Tekori, Louis Picamoles , Gillian Galan, David Mele, Clément Poitrenaud

Ulster Rugby: Louis Ludik; Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Kyle McCall, Rory Best (c), Wiehahn Herbst, Alan O’Connor, Franco Van Der Merwe, Robbie Diack, Sean Reidy, Roger Wilson

Replacements: Rob Herring, Andy Warwick, Ricky Lutton, Lewis Stevenson, Nick Williams, Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys, Rory Scholes

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