Toulouse end Harlequins’ winning run
Four-time champions Toulouse brought Harlequins’ 14-match winning run to an end on Friday with a muscular and stylish 21-10 European Cup victory which nudged the French giants closer to the quarter-finals.
Fijian winger Timoci Matanavou scored both of Toulouse’s tries at the Twickenham Stoop in the first of a Pool Six double-header which exposed a huge gulf in ability between two teams who currently lead their respective domestic championships.
The result gave Toulouse a four-point lead, and a win in the return fixture next weekend would ensure a last-eight spot.
“We have to go there and give it a shot. We have nothing to lose,” said Harlequins skipper Chris Robshaw.
“We have to win. Anything else and we will be out of the European Cup.”
Toulouse dominated possession and territory in the opening 40 minutes with former All Black fly-half Luke McAlister giving the French side an early advantage with a fifth-minute penalty.
Fellow Kiwi fly-half Nick Evans levelled at 3-3 with a ninth-minute penalty after Toulouse’s Samoan prop Census Johnston was caught offside.
Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care then rashly decided on a tap penalty, much to the irritation of Evans and the delight of Toulouse when the English side were punished for offside.
Toulouse then grabbed the only try of the first half in the 18th minute.
McAlister launched a long pass to impressive No8 Louis Picamoles who darted ahead before feeding flanker Thierry Dusastoir and the French international captain quickly released Matanavou for the score.
McAlister missed the conversion but made amends with a montser penalty to make the half-time score 11-3.
Harlequins briefly looked a different side at the start of the second half and quickly reduced the deficit to 11-10.
Care nipped off the back of a scrum, released young prop Joe Marler whose pass fell perfectly for full-back Mike Brown to collect his sixth European Cup try.
Toulouse complained that Marler had impeded Florian Fritz when the veteran centre attempted to intercept Brown, but the try stood and Evans added the conversion.
McAlister quickly relieved the pressure with a penalty for 14-10.
Toulouse virtually wrapped up victory 15 minutes from time when Matanavou scored his second try of the night after a blistering cross-field move involving McAlister and Vincent Clerc.
McAlister succeeded with a tricky conversion from the touchline for a 21-10 lead.
In Pool Two, Cardiff knocked Edinburgh off top spot with a crushing 25-8 win with Scottish fly-half Dan Parks kicking 20 points to add to winger Alex Cuthbert’s 75th-minute try.
“Dan had a good game. We are quick to realise he might kick a lot but he keeps us going forward and the big thing for us is he keeps the scoreboard ticking and any time they got penalised in their own half he slotted his kicks,” said Cardiff forwards coach Justin Burnell.
In Pool Four, Ulster picked-up a five-try bonus point win in a 31-3 victory over Aironi which temporarily put them top until Clermont and Leicester meet on Saturday.
Stephen Ferris, Adam D’Arcy, Andrew Trimble, Paul Marshall and Paddy Jackson all scored tries.