Planet Rugby

Toulouse rob the Stoop

17th October 2009 19:58

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Clerc beats Monye

Vincent Clerc sparks the Toulouse comeback

Toulouse bounced back from a 14-0 half-time deficit to record an enthralling 23-19 win at Harlequins in the Heineken Cup on Saturday.

Any thought of a Toulouse win would have been laughed all the way across the channel at half-time, as Ugo Monye's try after 25 minutes gave the English the two-score lead they richly deserved for a dominant first-half performance.

Toulouse were off their game, as they have often looked thus far this season. The handling was deplorable at times, certainly compared to their opponents. The first half was summed up in the final minute of it, when four good phases of Toulouse attack were ruined by an unforced knock-on in midfield. Harlequins recovered the ball and hacked downfield, where Maxime Medard, covering back, knocked it on.

It could have been more than just 14-0 at the break. Danny Care just failed to make it to a ball he had grubbered through, after the hapless Medard had made another mess of a clean-up. David Strettle and Monye both came off their wings to terrifying extent, with Nick Evans pinpoint in his distribution. Harlequins dominated the breakdown well enough, but it was the direction Evans gave his side that helped them onto the front foot so often.

Yet two quickfire tries from Toulouse early in the second half restored parity, and although Monye collected a neat grubber from Brown was picked up by Monye for another score, momentum had shifted irretrievably.

Guest and Brown both butchered chances to get Quins back in front, as neither of them passed the ball to the finishers when they needed to, with the game see-sawing back and forth. But first Freddie Michalak, and then Florian Fritz from 55m, landed penalties to seal the deal.

Toulouse loosehead Jean-Baptise Poux staggered off after only two minutes following a shuddering tackle on Jim Evans and was replaced by Daan Human.

Harlequins saw promising attacks snuffed out by Toulouse captain Thierry Dusautoir before taking the lead through a penalty from Nick Evans.

Will Skinner had been injured in the build up to the penalty and limped out of the game in the 10th minute, replaced by Tom Guest.

Toulouse's problems increased when flanker Yannick Nyanga left the field on a stretcher during the first quarter after suffering a leg injury. He was replaced by Jean Bouilhou.

Evans added a second penalty on 22 minutes and the Twickenham Stoop exploded six minutes later when Quins scored a superb try.

Guest won the ball at the back of a lineout and broke upfield, Evans then fed Gonzalo Tiesi and when the ball was switched back infield, Evans' accurate flat pass found Ugo Monye.

The England wing took off, swerved outside Jean-Baptiste Elissalde's desperate tackle and raced home on the right.

Evans hit a post with his conversion attempt but made amends five minutes later, arrowing home a penalty as Toulouse continued to struggle.

It took the visitors 39 minutes to launch a genuine attack but, after seven passes, a fumbled catch brought a one-sided half to an end.

A more focused Toulouse hauled themselves back into the game five minutes after the break.

Referee Alain Rolland missed a blatant forward pass, it bounced high when pumped forward and after Maxime Medard failed to gather it in the air, Monye missed the bounce to allow wing Yves Donguy to swoop and score between the posts.

Elissalde converted and before Quins could regroup, Toulouse thundered back deep into home territory and Shaun Sowerby was shunted over on the right. Elissalde's conversion brought the scores level after only 49 minutes.

Harlequins produced the ideal riposte with Mike Brown's excellent kick in behind the defence finished off by Monye on the left.

Elissalde reduced the arrears once more with a 59th-minute penalty and Toulouse took the lead for the first time three minutes later, this time Frederic Michalak firing over a penalty.

Quins should have regained control but Brown and Guest failed to turn two excellent scoring opportunities into points by failing to pass the ball with Toulouse in retreat.

Toulouse could have sealed things minutes later but Michalak struck a penalty wide and then hit the bar with an audacious long-range drop-goal attempt.

But Florian Fritz made sure with a 55-metre penalty 90 seconds from time.

The scorers:

For Harlequins:
Tries: Monye 2
Pens: Evans 3

For Toulouse:
Tries: Donguy, Sowerby
Con: Elissalde
Pens: Elissalde, Michalak, Fritz

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 David Strettle, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Tosh Masson, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Will Skinner (capt), 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Jim Evans, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Mark Lambert, 2 Tani Fuga, 1 Ceri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 Aston Croall, 18 John Andress, 19 Shane O'Connor, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Steve So'oialo, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 George Lowe.

Toulouse: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Yann David, 12 Yannick Jauzion, 11 Yves Donguy, 10 Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, 9 Byron Kelleher, 8 Shaun Sowerby, 7 Thierry Dusautoir, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Romain Millo-Chluski, 3 Benoit Lecouls, 2 William Servat, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Replacements: 16 Alberto Vernet Basualdo, 17 Census Johnston, 18 Daan Human, 19 Jean Bouilhou, 20 Frédéric Michalak, 21 Florian Fritz, 22 Grégory Lamboley, 23 Louis Picamoles.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Alan Rogan (Ireland), Brain MacNeice (Ireland)
Television match official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)

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