Match Report: Stade Toulousain 23-25 Ulster Rugby

Ruan Pienaar

Ruan Pienaar was man of the match

Ulster took a huge step towards the Champions’ Cup quarter-finals with a hard-fought 25-23 win at the Stade Ernest Wallon over Toulouse.

With two games against Oyonnax still to come, it looks like Ulster are now set up to be one of the best runners-up as they search to qualify from one of the toughest pools in the competition.

Ulster led at half-time courtesy of a try from Ruan Pienaar and a penalty from Paddy Jackson, while Sebastien Bezy landed a penalty for Toulouse and then one more straight after the break to bring Toulouse back.

Andrew Trimble and Gael Fickou traded tries before a late Luke Marshall try sealed the win for Les Kiss’ men while a last minute Louis Picamoles score was scant consolation for Toulouse who are now out of the running.

Playing with the wind, it took all of two minutes for Ulster to take the lead through a sweetly struck Jackson penalty after Dusautoir was guilty of not rolling away at a ruck.

Pienaar had a chance to double Ulster’s lead a few minutes later, with the Springbok scrum-half eyeing up a long range penalty from inside his own half however his effort was a long way off the mark.

Toulouse were having more of possession, however Ulster were dominating territory and they used the boots of Jackson and Pienaar to pin Toulouse back in their own 22.

Jackson had an opportunity to extend Ulster’s lead with a 27th minute penalty after a controversial scrum decision from referee JP Doyle but the fly-half’s kick hit the post and bounced away.

They wouldn’t have to wait long for their next score though as Ulster battered away at the Toulouse defence on their line and eventually a gaping hole appeared for Pienaar to dive through and touch down under the posts.

Jackson put over the simple extras but then went and sat down for ten minutes as Toulouse launched a counter attack straight from the kick off which was halted only when Jackson deliberately knocked the ball on.

Despite Jackson being hit late by Florian Fritz after the decision was made, referee Doyle stuck with his initial call and Bezy sent over the penalty to reduce the arrears to 10-3.

Ulster thought they had a remarkable try right at the end of the half as they broke away through winger Andrew Trimble but a forward pass in the build-up ruled out Rory Scholes’s touch down.

Instead, straight after the break it was Bezy who got the next points through a penalty after Robbie Diack came in at the side at a ruck.

But with Jackson back from the sin bin, Ulster set up a strike move from the back of a scrum and got their second try of the game through Trimble.

Barnstorming centre Stuart McCloskey broke the line and made it all the way to the five metre line and from there the ball was whipped wide with pace and Trimble had the ability to touch down in the corner under pressure.

It looked like Ulster might be stretching ahead, but Toulouse had other plans as they used their forward power to work their way into Ulster territory and when the ball was moved wide Gael Fickou had a simple task of walking over.

Bezy landed the difficult conversion and then put Toulouse in the lead for the first time in the game with a penalty four minutes later after substitute prop Andrew Warwick didn’t roll away.

Ulster were making a lot of good yardage through the backs though and when Dusautoir was caught on the wrong side of a ruck Jackson was on hand to put the visitors back in front with 20 minutes to play.

It looked like with two points in it that Toulouse might have the power to go on and grab the win, but Ulster were holding out superbly in defence and they got the try that sealed the win with seven minutes left.

The Irish province moved their hosts back and forth across the pitch to tire them out and then lock Alan O’Connor delayed the pass beautifully to set away centre Luke Marshall who galloped over under the posts.

The conversion from Jackson meant even when Louis Picamoles crossed at the death for Toulouse it did not matter as Ulster held on for the victory that puts them right in the hunt for the quarter-finals.

 

The scorers

For Toulouse

Tries: Fickou, Picamoles

Cons: Bezy, Doussain

Pens: Bezy (3)

For Ulster

Tries: Pienaar, Trimble, L Marshall

Cons: Jackson (2)

Pens: Jackson (2)

 

STADE TOULOUSAIN

(15-9) Alexis Palisson, Semi Kunatani, Gael Fickou (Luke McAlister 52), Florian Fritz, Timoci Matanavou (Clement Poitrenaud 60), Jean-Marc Doussain, Sebastien Bezy (David Mele 75); (1-8) Cyril Baille (Gurthro Steenkamp 52), Julien Marchand (Christopher Tolofua 52), Census Johnston (Gert Muller 37), Gregory Lamboley, Yoann Maestri, Yacouba Camara, Thierry Dusautoir (Louis Picamoles 60), Imanol Harinordoquy (Joe Tekori 52).

ULSTER RUGBY

(15-9) Louis Ludik, Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Craig Gilroy (Rory Scholes 12), Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar (Paul Marshall 77); (1-8) Kyle McCall (Andrew Warwick 75), Rory Best, Wiehahn Herbst (Ricky Lutton 44), Alan O’Connor (Lewis Stevenson 75), Franco van der Merwe, Robbie Diack, Sean Reidy (Nick Williams 43), Roger Wilson (Rob Herring 62).

Sub not used: Ian Humphreys.

Yellow card: Paddy Jackson (35’)

 

Man of the Match: Ruan Pienaar (Ulster)

Referee: JP Doyle (Eng)