Vincent Clerc scored twice as Toulouse beat Castres 35-12 at Le Stadium on Saturday to book a place in the Top 14 semi-finals.
Vincent Clerc scored twice as Toulouse romped past Castres 35-12 at the Stadium de Toulouse on Saturday to book a place in the Top 14 semi-finals.
In a dominant display, Toulouse outscored their visitors four tries to none to charge into the semi-finals, where they will meet Perpignan next Friday.
In the build up Toulouse coach Guy NovÃ¨s insisted his side were treating the match as nothing more than “preparations of the Heineken Cup Final,” but in front of their home fans, only victory is ever good enough for les Rouge et Noires.
A sold-out Stadium de Toulouse saw their side in classic finals mode – calm, pragmatic and striking when the iron was hot in the first half to race into the lead.
An intense first half was however followed by an error-riddled start to second period dominated by penalties as Castres tried to claw their way back into contention.
But in true Toulouse fashion, the home side turned up the pace and killed off the game with a brace of tries in the final quarter.
Toulouse hit the front early with thanks to a try after just five minutes from full-back Maxime MÃ©dard who used his speed to beat France wing Marc Andreu after a counter attacked started by flank Gregory Lamboley and scrum-half Byron Kelleher.
The hosts doubled their lead on the quarter-hour mark when a big scrum allowed Kelleher to unleash Yannick Jauzion and the centre found Clerc out wide. Clerc managed to shrug off Romain Teulet and then powered past Andreu to score.
Jean-Baptiste Elissalde added the conversion and Toulouse were cruising at 14-0.
Teulet, the championship's top marksman this season, pulled three points back to Castres from the kicking tee, but Elissalde promptly replied with a penalty of his own.
Castres finally managed to hold onto the ball and were rewarded for some decent phase play with second penalty for Teulet to make the scores 17-6 at the break.
Castres were unfazed by the hosts lead and had the better of the opening exchanges in the second period. They got right back in the game soon after the break when Teulet found the mark again after Thierry Dusautoir was pinged for a high tackle, reducing the gap to eight points.
Elissalde restored the lead but Dusautoir was in the wrong again three minutes later, killing the ball and allowing Teulet to slot his fourth penalty and leave the scores at 20-12 going into the last quarter.
Toulouse moved further ahead with fifteen minutes to play when Clerc scored his second try after Yann David found gap and new recruit Vilimoni Delasau drew two defenders to put his wing partner clear.
The killer blow came five minutes later when David bust through the defence again to round off a sweeping Toulouse attack and score their fourth try.
Already 35-12 down, Castres had to finish the match with fourteen men as lock Rodrigo Capo-Ortega was sent to the bin after a huge dust-up.
In red-hot form and bursting with confidence, Toulouse are still on track for the European-domestic double.
Tries: MÃ©dard, Clerc 2, David.
Cons: Elissalde 2, Fritz
Pens: Elissalde 3
Yellow card: Capo-Ortega (Castres, 70th min)
Toulouse:: 15 Maxime MÃ©dard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Yann David, 12 Yannick Jauzion, 11Vilimoni Delasau, 10 Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, 9 Byron Kelleher, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Gregory Lamboley, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Romain Millo-Chluski, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Benoit Lecouls, 2 William Servat, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Replacements: 16 Alberto Vernet Basualdo, 17 Daan Human, 18 Patricio Albacete, 19 Finau Maka, 20 Jean Bouilhou, 21 Florian Fritz, 22 Clemont Poitrenaud, 23 Yohann Montes.
Castres: 15 Romain Teulet, 14 Yohann Audrin, 13 Pierre-Emmanuel Garcia, 12 RomainCabannes, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Cameron McIntyre, 9 alexandre Albouy, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Yannick Caballero, 6 Ibrahim Diarra, 5 Rodrigo Capo-Ortega, 4 Matthias Rolland, 3 Daniel Saayman, 2 Mathieu Bonello, 1 Carl Hoeft.
Replacements: 16 Michael Coetzee, 17 Yannick Forestier, 18 Kirill Koulemine, 19 Iosefa Tekori, 20 Thomas Sanchou, 21 Mathieu Nicolas, 22 Florian Denos, 23 Luc Ducalcon.