Toulouse v Connacht

Connacht facing European aristocrats Toulouse on their own patch in search of a knockout place

John O'Sullivan Sun, Jan 22
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  • Right that's enough from me. Thank you for your company. In a couple of minutes the pigeon with Gerry Thornley's match report will have arrived at Tara Street Towers. It'll be up here. At halftime it didn't look likely but Connacht knuckled down and never game up and in the end came up millimtres short over six rounds of pool matches. Munster and Leinster march on to the knockout stages.  
  • Quarterfinalists: Three French Top14 clubs, Three Guinness Pro12 clubs and two Aviva Premiership sides.  
  • The quarterfinals take place two weeks after the final round of matches in the Six Nations. There'll be a lot of the clubs saying novenas that all their players come back intact. Four cracking quarterfinal ties.  
  • Leinster old boys Marty Moore, Brendan Macken and Jimmy Gopperth coming back to Dublin with Wasps.  
  • Elliot Daly (Wasps): "To have Leinster away in Dublin, it's going to be a massive game and one we are looking forward to."  
  • So the last time Toulouse travelled to Thomond Park was for the quarterfinal in 2014 and the Irish province triumphed memorably, 47-23, scoring six tries.  
  • Toulouse's Richie Gray: "Tough match out there. Pretty shaky towards the end. Now we face Munster, that's going to be pretty tough."  
  • Lovely words from Pat Lam speaking of his pride in his players and the province. Acknowledged the short comings on the day and reflected on the players missing and the fact that the chopping and changing in the team had led to those little system errors.  
  • Pat Lam: "It's close but so far. "  

    Six former winners, only Clermont and Glasgow have yet to win the tournament.  

  • It's finished in Italy. Zebre 27 Wasps 41
  • Connacht captain John Muldoon: "It's tough to take. Ultimately we will look back at the first half and the amount of tourovers we had. We didn't look after the ball. They are starting to put flair back in theirt game and mixing up with big forwards. We will though be disappointed leaving it here tonight. We undid ourselves in ther first half. Fair play to Toulouse, they will be a hard side to beat moving on."  

  • Now back to Connacht. This one will smart a little. Too many errors in the first half and in general, but boy did they fill that jersey in the second half. Incredible attitude and guts.  
  • Clermont v Toulon. Leinster v Wasps. Saracens v Glasgow Warriors. Munster v Toulouse. That is the Champions Cup quarterfinal lineup.  
  • Zebre 20 Wasps 41
  • That ruck penalty could have gone either way. However the team that played better rugby on the afternoon won but (DOFFS CHAPEAU) what a wonderful display of character and grit from Connacht in the second half.  
  • FULLTIME: Toulouse 19 Connacht 10
  • PENALTY............Toulouse. That could have gone either way.  
  • Connacht still inside their own half. Side to side.  
  • One line break and Connacht can win this.  
  • Connacht on their 10 metre line.  
  • Connacht have stolen it. 60 seconds left.  
  • Toulouse go to corner rather than at goal. Someone told Dusautoir that Toulouse will have to play Munster if they don't get a four try bonus point win.  
  • There are two and a half minutes left and NOT AGAIN, Connacht concede a penalty. In from the side.  
  • Pick and jam again.
  • Pick and jam.  
  • Toulouse win lineout.  
  • Sean O'Brien in from side. Three and a half minutes to go and they are back near their own 22 thanks to the concession of those penalties.  
  • Toulouse maul. Penalty coming.  
  • Wept. Win the ball drive it infield. What they attempted had an unbelievably high tariff.  
  • Connacht lose possession and then concede a penalty.  
  • There are five minutes left. Time to look at setting up a drop goal chance. That would be enough to see Connacht advance.  
  • Right Connacht lineout about 25-metres out.  
  • Bezy boxkick. Great take O'Halloran. Superb diagional Carty. Back in Toulouse 22.  
  • Maul. The beefy brothers are carrying hard.  
  • Toulouse lineout on the Toulouse 10 metre line.  
  • Correct decision.  
  • PENALTY Toulouse.  
  • Eight and a half minutes left.
  • Wayne Barnes calls for a scrum. Reset.  
  • Carty carries, Heffernan carries and then a wide pass is throw to Healy but he can't take it. Goes into touch. Long pass, difficult catch and Bonneval might still have tackled Healy.  
  • Cannon carries. 10 metres to go.  
  • Connacht lock out scrum. Robb on crash ball. O'Brien carries. Ronaldson carries.  
  • There are 69 minutes gone. That's 11 to go. I'm good at maths.  
  • Connacht scrum 12 metres from the Toulouse line.  
  • Great chip and chase from Healy. Great intelligence and Huget has thrown a shocking pass. Galan knocks on.  
  • Italian hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini is on at hooker and Roux pinches his frst throw.  
  • This was a much better moment for him.  
  • Connacht on the Toulouse 22 but then Muldoon spins into isolation and penalised for not releasing.  
  • Bezy clears to about 30-metres from their line. Toulouse replace their two props.  
  • Toulouse steal Connacht throw.  
  • Connacht go for the shooter-tackle in midfield and miss but Barnes penalises Richie Gray for not releasing at the ruck. Superb work from Muldoon.  
  • Good escape from Connacht and neat grubber and chase. Fickou gets a boot to it but have the officials have spotted it. Sacre Bleu scream the locals. Dave Heffernan on for McCartney.  
  • If Toulouse get the victory and the four try bonus point then the quarterfinals would be.

    Clermont v Toulon, Munster v Glasgow, Sarries v Toulouse and Leinster v Wasps. I think.  

  • As things stand the quarterfinals would read: Clermont v Toulon; Munster v Toulouse, Sarries v Glasgow, Leinster v Wasps.  
  • If Connacht score a penalty to get within seven points they would go on and Tiulouse would go out.  
  • 62 mins: Toulouse 19 Connacht 10
  • The scrum inside the Connacht 22 will be reset.  
  • Wasps have the bonus point in Zebre.  
  • Sean O'Brien for Fox Matamua. Danie Poolman on for Adeolokun (HIA)  
  • Two missed tackles from Connacht and a static line defence. But they escape because Perez loses the ball forward.  
  • Barnes has missed a forward pass and an obstruction in this passage of play.  
  • Toulouse miss touch, they're getting a bit jiggy. If Connacht can keep up the pressure possession and territory wise.............jeez another ruck penalty against Connacht; holding on. It's just criminal.  
  • Discipline, discipline, discipline.  
  • Connacht concede another ruck penalty, this time for offside. McCartney.  
  • Connacht eight metres out.  
  • Another steal.  
  • Great lineout steal and punt from Carty back into Toulouse 22.  
  • Ruck penalty conceded by Connacht. It has to stop.  
  • Carty should have given that ball. Compunded by conceding a ruck penalty. Connacht are giving Toulouse some easy outs. That must stop immediately.  
  • If the final score was 19-13 for example, Connacht would qualify. Just saying.  
  • Connacht are back in the Toulouse 22.  
  • Roux forces a penalty concession at the ruck. Brilliant.  
  • 54 mins: Toulouse 19 Connacht 10
  • That's a superb response. Robb with a brilliant cary taking out two or three tacklers and from the quick recycle, Muldoon forces his way over. Ronaldson adds the conversion.  
  • TRY: Muldoon
  • Connacht scrum. Seminal moment number two.  
  • A seminal moment as they say in the best circles.  
  • Connacht go for another lineout.  
  • Toulouse penalised for side entry. Clos the guilty party.  
  • That's a stunning linekick from Ronaldson. Connacht with a lineout five metres from the Toulouse line.  
  • It really is falling apart from Connacht, another move ends in a turnoverbut then Toul;ouse get pinged for crossing.  
  • 47 mins: Toulouse 19 Connacht 3
  • The good news lasted about eight seconds. Lineout, maul, Joe Tekori splinters the last vestiges of the rearguard. That's three tries. Doussain misses the conversion.  

  • TRY: Tekori.  
  • Another penalty offence, the exact same offence. Bealham this time. That's three penalties in a row and Connacht are no five metres from their line. In better news, Roux is back.  
  • Bezy hammers it for the corner rather than handing it to Doussain to have a shot at goal.  
  • Another easy line break for Toulouse, Fickou again, but Connacht scramble well and profit from a Richie Gray knock on. Connacht clear but then give away a lineout penalty for sacking the lifter. Tom McCartney the culprit.  
  • There are still four minutes to go on the Roux sin bin.  
  • Pity, it was a chance to close the gap to eight points and one feels they need to take everything. Right on cue Connacht concede a penalty at a ruck on the Toulouse 10 metre line, giving free access to the home side into the visitors half.  
  • PENALTY MISS: Ronaldson
  • Connacht have just spun the ball along the backline and Peter Robb was tackled 25 metres from their own line. The kick it downfield and have won a penalty. Fox Mataua, who has been superb, forces the concession. Ronaldson will take it on from the Toulouse 10-metre line.  
  • The final message from Muldoon in the huddle. "We have to look after the ball." Indeed they do.  
  • Connacht team manager Tim Allnutt:  "We lacked possession. They got a couple of mismatches on defence that cost us big. We have got to get the ball, keep hold of it and make them work as they are doing to us."  
  • Connacht still have to have the courage of their convictions to play their game but it has to be backed up by accuracy and good decision making. If they cough up ball cheaply they're going to struggle to get it back and with six forwards on the bench, Toulouse have plenty of ballast to supplement that which is already on view.  
  • There's no point in lamenting who's not available for Connacht but Bundee Aki would make a massive difference with and without the ball.  
  • For the second try, Robb, who's playing 13 but is an inside centre, got caught watching further in and Healy can't close the gap quickly enough.  
  • In fairness, I should point out that in criticising the Connacht midfield defence it's not necessarily the centres. Buckley off the general line speed for the first try that gave Fickou the dogleg in the line.  
  • Danny Cipriani scored a late first half try for Wasps and then another for Elliot Daly. It was 13-8 at that stage for the home side, not 13-10.  

    Half-time: Zebre 13 Wasps 20  

  • There are too many handling errors and the discipline has not been good. Right that's the negatives. The positives are that Connacht's scrum have won a couple of penalties and they're not further behind.  
  • When in possession, Connacht are far too lateral and they've got to manage the game more intelligently. It's all fine and dandy to run ball from their 22 but only when there's chance to make progress. No one is holding the Toulouse backs and they are just being allowed to drift and gang tackle Connacht's last receiver.  
  • Okay given the balance of the opening 40-minutes, Connacht have done well to escape with only conceding two tries. The down side os that they have contributed lavishly to their own demise. The midfield defence is brittle as it is on the fringes at times. They are second best in the collisions and Toulouse players are able to offload, which is exacerbating the defence issues.  
  • What a scrum from the visitors. They win a penalty.  

    HALFTIME: Toulouse 14 Connacht 3

  • Peter Robb plays emergency secondrow.  
  • Last play of the half in Toulouse. Home side have a scrum on the Connacht 10 metre line.  
  • I know it's stunning. It can't last, surely.  
  • Zebre 13 Wasps 10, I think.  
  • Toulouse rediscover a brio in attack; that translates as an offloading game.  
  • Pitch is starting to look like it would be a good venue for the Ploughing Championships.  
  • MISS PENALTY: Doussain.  Gaps of astonishment. That was a dolly. Slippers time.  
  • Oh, no.

    YELLOW CARD: Quinn Roux. Grabbing the arm of the scrumhalf. Bang to rights. Utter folly.  

  • The metres are being eaten up and Toulouse have a penalty advantage.  
  • Connacht retreat.  
  • Toulouse rumble.
  • Another loose pass from Ronaldson to Healy, no fault of the winger, but it goes to ground. Toulouse scrum just 25 metres from the Connacht line. Criminally lax from the visitors.  
  • 34 mins: Toulouse 14 Connacht 3
  • PENALTY: Ronaldson.
  • Connacht win a penalty, well Denis Buckley does, superbly and Craig Ronaldson will have a shot at the posts from the Toulouse 10-metre line.  
  • Toulouse's big men have the offloading going by instinct and it's causing huge problems.  
  • Connacht's straight up defence is poor though and they are being opened too easily.  
  • Connacht scrambled for their lives defensively.  
  • Toulouse set up maul but penalised for truck and trailer.  
  • Connacht in the shadow of their own posts again.  
  • Kieran Marmion throws a pass that Niyi Adeolokun wasn't expecting, knock-on, turnover. Healy saves Connacht but O'Halloran turns it over as they try and break out.  
  • Connacht turn over possession. Connacht on the Toulouse 10-metre line but no way through.  
  • Jeez half the pitch came up at that scrum. Neither side budged an inch.  
  • Fox Matamua knock on. Little errors but too many.  
  • Possession: Toulouse 76% Connacht 24% That sums up the action so far.  
  • Carty misses touch.  
  • Connacht turnover Toulouse lineout and then Yann David is penalised for a high shot on O'Halloran.  
  • Toulouse have a lineout about 25 metres from the Connacht line. The visitors turnover ball but then give it away twice. That's so sloppy. Muldoon saves his team by catching a cross-kick.  
  • Discipline is another issue. That's another penalty conceded, where the counterruck was very effective.  
  • They're not making much headway in possession, lateral rather than penetrative.  
  • Connacht have been caught out a couple of times in midfield and it's ominous.  
  • Connacht get their midfield defence all wrong. Doussain sends Yoann Huget through a massive hole in the Connacht defence and he times his pass nicely for Arthur Bonneval who fends off Healy. Doussain kicks a tricky conversion.  

    18 mins: Toulouse 14 Connacht 0

  • TRY: Bonneval
  • Rory Any recommendations for live radio coverage of the game? On the way down from Belfast to Dublin
  • 16 mins: Toulouse 7 Connacht 0
  • SHOCK NEWS: Zebre have taken the lead against Wasps. A try too.  
  • Toulouse lineout after O'Halloran misplaces a pass.  
  • Carty looks for territory but Paul Perez fields his kick. O'Halloran catches from Bezy box kick and then Carty finds Bezy in his 22. The upshot is a lineout on the halfway which Connacht take quickly.  
  • Jake Heenan forces a Toulouse handling error.  
  • Super Connacht scrum but Matt Healy drops the ball, Toulouse counter but Carty rescues. Connacht try and clear twice but don't find touch on either occasion and Toulouse are back into the hard carrying rhythm.  
  • Yoann Maestri loses the ball in contact. Good hit from Roux. Connacht scrum on the halfway line.  
  • Toulouse winning the colllisions. They've owned the ball.  
  • Connacht give away a penalty: arm grab. Silly because it allows Toulouse to go from their 22 to close to the halfway line. Quinn Roux the offender.  
  • Neat chip from Carty takes Connacht into the Toulouse 22.  
  • Some really brilliant Connacht goal-line defence but eventually they ran out of numbers and Fickou could plunge over near the corner unmolested. Connacht conceded a full penalty from the scrum. Toulouse number eight Francois Clos tapped and went and after some heavy duty assaults, Fickou gets over. Jean Marc Doussain with the conversion.

    7 mins: Toulouse 7 Connacht 0

  • TRY: Fickou.
  • Freekick Toulouse. They opt to re-scrum.  
  • It's marginally to the right of the posts.  
  • Toulouse with the five metre scrum.  
  • Toulouse prop Cyril Baille held up over the line. Three minutes and 12 seconds of continuous possession. Nepia Fox Matamua with the try saving tackle.  
  • Seven metres from the Connacht line.  
  • A break from Gael Fickou and Connacht are back in their 22.  
  • Toulouse field the kickoff and then set about getting the dumptrucks running off scrumhalf Sebastien Bezy.  
  • Jack Carty gets the game started.  
  • Not so sure that Toulouse will honour their traditional motto: Jeu de mains, jey Toulousains. For those of you that studied German or Spanish in school it translates as 'the game played with the hands is the Toulouse way.'  
  • The clickety-clack of studs on tiles.  
  • Here come the teams.  
  • The rain has stopped.  
  • Lets hope these fans will be celebrating in about an hour and a half.  
  • Referee Wayne Barnes looks on as Dusautoir and John Muldoon exchange pleasantries at the coin toss.  
  • The visitors on the other hand will look to run the legs off the home side.  
  • Those of you who have been studying this blog carefully will realise that Toulouse have a 6-2, split on the bench, in terms of forwards and backs. That will tell you what they expect. They have a gargantuan pack and see that as the best avenue of tying down Connacht.  
  • Doesn't look overjoyed despite winning the competition. Possibly intimdated by the giant mascot.  
  • As you will have gleaned from Lam's quotes, it is raining in Toulouse, which won't suit the Irish province.  
  • Connacht coach Pat Lam: "I think it is dangerous if you don't focus on winning. If you (Thierry) Dusautoir as the smallest forward out there, you understand the physical challenge we are facing. Ideally we would have liked a dry pitch. Defence is going to be massive. We can't give them four tries and hopefully we will give them none.  
  • Wasps are of course taking on Zebre. I say taking on but it's a locked down five-pointer.  
  • No one has made more metres than this man, Connacht's Tiernan O'Halloran, and Irish rugby supporters will be hoping that this is an image that is reprised this afternoon in Toulouse.  
  • A little exhortion from the Connacht Clan supporters.
  • Toulouse players look focused.  
  • Right just to set the mood, here's the match report from that December day in 2013 when Connacht stunned Toulouse in their backyard. Read it here.
  • Here are the teams and officials.


    Toulouse: Yoann Huget; Arthur Bonneval, Yann David , Gael Fickou, Paul Perez; Jean-Marc Doussain, Sébastien Bézy; Cyril Baille, Christopher Tolofua, Census Johnston, Richie Gray, Yoann Maestri, Joe Tekori, Thierry Dusautoir (c), Francois Cros .


    Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Vasil Kakovin, Gurthro Steenkamp, Talalelei Gray, Piula Faasalele, Gillian Galan, Toby Flood, Alexis Palisson


    Connacht: Tiernan O'Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Peter Robb, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Quinn Roux, James Cannon, Nepia Fox Matamua, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon (c).


    Replacements: David Heffernan, JP Cooney, John Andress, Sean O'Brien, Naulia Dawai, John Cooney, Tom Farrell, Danie Poolman.


    Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).


    Assistant ref: JP Doyle (England), Assistant ref: Peter Allan (England).


    TMO: David Grashoff (England).


    Citing Commissioner: John Montgomery (Scotland)  

  • The Connacht team arrived at the ground a little earlier. They're currently completing their warm-up on the pitch.  
  • This superb photograph was taken this morning.  
  • For those who want to know exactly what Connacht required today, here's Gerry Thornley's comprehensive lowdown along with a preview. You can access it here  
  • While at the public service announcements from the ground, you can also get a souvenir photograph of your visit, presumably for a modest sum of money at this machine.  
  • I think the gist of this is that you can download an app that gives that priority in ordering and collecting a drink at the game today. There's a priority queue once you use it. For the rest of us we'll make do with tap water.  
  • Hello and welcome to the Irish Times live blog on an afternoon where Connacht will be hoping to make history by qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions Cup as they take on Toulouse at the Stade Ernest Wallon. The home side will also be hoping to reach the quarterfinals.  

    John O'Sullivan here and I'll be keeping track on what hopefully will be a third Irish province to make the knockout stage, joining Munster and Leinster. It's a tough ask but Connacht aren't afraid of those and they have beaten Toulouse at home in the past.