Toulouse announced their arrival at Europe's top table with an emphatic 36-17 win over Sale Sharks at Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday.
Toulouse announced their arrival at Europe's top table by serving up a sumptuous feast of running rugby, breaking away to record a 36-17 Heineken Cup win over Sale Sharks at Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday.
As beautiful and as clever as each of their five tries were, appearances can sometimes deceive. Sale's decision to field what was largely a second-string side robbed this match of any real meaning: the game was over as a contest before it had barely begun. It was a sorry way to end what has been a wonderful weekend of rugby.
One can sympathise with the visitors' need to “manage resources” – but only to a point. One wonders how they will now “manage” their punctured self-esteem or their position at the foot of Pool Five, on -19 game points.
Toulouse might also live to regret Sale's management of resources. Yes, the French giants looked slick against a side that had one eye on the taxi rank (they fly home tonight) but it wasn't ideal preparation for their next encounter: Quins at the Stoop.
But all that's for next week – back to proceedings in France, where there was a happy moment for Vincent Clerc. The France star dotted down twice to take his tally of tries in the Heineken Cup to 30, thereby overtaking Cardiff Blues and former Llanelli Scarlets star Dafydd James's try-scoring record in Europe's premier competition.
But it was Maxime Medard who handed Toulouse the early advantage with the opening try before setting up Yves Donguy for the bonus point in the first play of the second half.
Donguy added a fifth try in the final quarter for the three-time champions before the visitors grabbed late consolation tries through prop-cum-lock Rob O'Donnell and wing Ben Cohen.
Wales scrum-half Dwayne Peel, back from injury, was installed as captain for the Guinness Premiership outfit who were without the likes of regular captain Dean Schofield, Mark Cueto and Charlie Hodgson.
The makeshift visitors were huddled under their own sticks as early as the second minute when Toulouse took the lead through Medard.
Jean-Baptiste Elissalde's cross-kick found CÃ©dric Heymans, whose reverse pass allowed Medard to shrug off the tackle of England World Cup winner Cohen to touch down.
French half-back Elissalde converted from the left touchline to pass through the 400-point barrier in this competition.
Sale briefly halted the surge of attacks and got their first points on the scoreboard through Nick MacLeod's fifth-minute penalty.
But Toulouse got into their stride when Clerc scored his first try to equal James' long-standing record. Florian Fritz made the break in midfield, and after centre partner Yannick Jauzion was held up, Clerc burrowed through MacLeod's last-ditch tackle.
Elissalde converted and added his first penalty in the 23rd minute to put Toulouse 17-3 in front, Sale unable to compete with their hosts' pace and power up front.
But Clerc reached his milestone five minutes later when he capitalised on excellent quick-thinking from the livewire scrum-half.
Elissalde spotted Clerc in oceans of space on the right flank, and his perfectly-weighted cross-kick allowed the wing to score.
Clerc turned provider to set up Donguy for the bonus point.
But Sale kept plugging away – and after their first decent period of possession, Sean Cox went close in the left corner.
Toulouse were not finished and grabbed a fifth try in the 66th minute when Byron Kelleher's intelligent kick through caught Sale cold and Donguy had the pace and footwork to score his second try – before O'Donnell and Cohen crossed for Sale late on.
Tries: Medard, Clerc 2, Donguy 2
Cons: Elissalde 3, Michalak
For Sale Sharks:
Tries: O'Donnell, Cohen
Cons: MacLeod 2
Toulouse: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Yannick Jauzion, 11 CÃ©dric Heymans, 10 Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, 9 Byron Kelleher, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Thierry Dusautoir, 6 Jean Bouilhou, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 GrÃ©gory Lamboley, 3 Census Johnston, 2 William Servat, 1 Daan Human.
Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 Jean-Baptiste Poux, 18 Romain Millo-Chluski, 19 Shaun Sowerby, 20 FrÃ©dÃ©ric Michalak, 21 Yann David , 22 Yves Donguy, 23 Benoit Lecouls.
Sale: 15 Marika Vakacegu, 14 Ben Cohen, 13 Johnny Kennedy, 12 Andy Tuilagi, 11 Oriol Ripol, 10 Nick MacLeod, 9 Dwayne Peel (capt), 8 Carl Fearns, 7 David Seymour, 6 James Gaskell, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Rob O'Donnell, 3 Jack Forster, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Gavin Kerr.
Replacements: 16 Ben Roberts, 17 Lee Imiolek, 18 Martin Halsall, 19 David Tait, 20 Neil Briggs, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Richard Wigglesworth, 23 David Bishop.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Colin Stanley (Ire), Kevin Beggs (Ireland)
Television match official: Brian Fitzgerald (Ireland)