Planet Rugby

Toulouse crowned kings of Europe

22nd May 2010 15:08

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Florian Fritz Toulouse v Biarritz HEC

Florian Fritz kicked a drop and a mammoth penalty

Toulouse claimed an unprecedented fourth Heineken Cup title on Saturday overcoming Biarritz 21-19 in a hotly contested affair at Stade de France.

Fly-half David Skrela contributed two drop goals and three penalties while centre Florian Fritz kicked a mammoth penalty and a drop but Toulouse were unable to cross the Biarritz try-line despite playing the more attacking rugby.

A late try from Aussie import Karmichael Hunt set up a grandstand finish as Biarritz fought back, but few would argue that Toulouse weren't the stronger side on the day.

The real story of the day was Toulouse's dominance at scrum time where they simply destroyed their Basque opposition.

The Biarritz scrum was being murdered but the Basques still managed to lead 6-0 on the quarter-hour mark after Dimitri Yachvili landed both his penalty attempts while Skrela's effort in reply bounced off the right upright.

Toulouse were looking the far more dangerous side and were rewarded for their enterprise when Florian Fritz thumped a 53-metre penalty as Imanol Harinordoquy was pinged for a high tackle.

Biarritz full-back Iain Balshaw attempted an attack just inside Toulouse's half, and despite him posing little danger, Fritz gifted Yachvili another penalty chance when he illegally tackled the England Test player.

Yachvili was able to restore the six-point gap but the Toulouse scrum continued to dominate, earning another penalty which Skrela slotted with ease.

With Toulouse on the attack again, Biarritz were forced off side and Skrela could level the score with half-time looming.

Toulouse would move in front for the first time just before the break when Fritz used his cannon boot to smash a long-range drop goal. The TMO was required to make sure it bounced over off the upright but a 12-9 lead was the least Toulouse deserved as the teams headed for the changing rooms.

Skrela looked to bring France Grand Slam centre Yannick Jauzion into the action far more in the second half, and holes started to appear in a Biarritz defence which was stretched in all directions.

But Toulouse allowed their opponents a clear reprieve when, after switching the angle of attack repeatedly, Maxime Medard only had to catch the ball and then free an unmarked team-mate outside him, but he dropped it.

And Biarritz immediately capitalised through a fourth Yachvili penalty after a counter from Benoit August saw the Biarrot chase his own kick only to be tackled without the ball by Toulouse second row Patricio Albacete.

The Pumas lock saw yellow and Yachvili duly leveled the scores.

A man down, expansive play was not an option for les Rouge et Noirs so Skrela turned to drop goals, snapping a pair of them to put Toulouse 18-12 up by the time Albacete returned for the final quarter.

Biarritz brought Fabien Barcella on for the final half hour, but the highly-rated France prop wasn't unable to fix their troubles at scrum time.

Back to fifteen men and with their tails up, Toulouse began to cut loose, forcing a string of errors for the BO defence.

Toulouse are masters of knockout rugby, and when Skrela opened the gap to nine points with his third penalty with a little more than ten minutes left on the clock, it seemed sure that the trophy was on its way back to the Haute Garonne for the first time since 2005.

The Toulouse faithful were made to sweat however when Biarritz's flying American wing Takudzwa Ngwenya linked up with Hunt to throw the game wide open.

But in the closing stages the Toulouse pack kept the ball far away from their opposition, sealing a well-deserved win.

Man of the match: Skrela deserves a mention for his fifteen points but we'll go for a collective award and acknowledge the Toulouse front row for a thunderous performance.

Moment of the match: Biarritz were looking good to squeeze out a positive result until Florian Fritz's drop. Once Toulouse had their noses ahead, there was only ever going to be one result.

The scorers:

For Biarritz:
Try: Hunt
Con: Courrent
Pens: Yachvili 4

For Toulouse:
Pens: Fritz, Skrela 3
Drops: Fritz, Skrela 2

Yellow card: Albacete (Toulouse - 49th min)

Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque: 15 Iain Balshaw, 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Karmichael Hunt, 12 Arnaud Mignardi, 11 Jean-Baptiste Gobelet, 10 Julien Peyrelongue, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Wenceslas Lauret, 6 Magnus Lund, 5 Trevor Hall, 4 Jérôme Thion, 3 Campbell Johnstone, 2 Benoit August, 1 Eduard Coetzee.
Replacements: 16 Romain Terrain, 17 Fabien Barcella, 18 Rémy Hugues, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Florian Faure, 21 Valentin Courrent, 22 Philippe Bidabe, 23 Ayoola Erinle.

Stade Toulousain:15 Clément Poitrenaud, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Yannick Jauzion, 11 Maxime Medard, 10 David Skrela, 9 Byron Kelleher, 8 Shaun Sowerby, 7 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 6 Jean Bouilhou, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Romain Millo-Chluski, 3 Benoit Lecouls, 2 William Servat, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Replacements:16 Alberto Vernet Basualdo, 17 Daan Human, 18 Census Johnston, 19 Yoann Maestri, 20 Louis Picamoles , 21 Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, 22 Yann David , 23 Cédric Heymans,

Venue: Stade de France, St. Denis (Paris)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Dave Pearson (England), Chris White (England)

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