Toulouse 23-25 Ulster: Irish keep their hopes of Champions Cup quarter-final qualification alive with historic win
Ruan Pienaar’s try plus five points from Paddy Jackson gave Ulster a 10-3 lead at the break
The Irish province ended the opening 40 down to 14 men after Jackson was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on
Andrew Trimble and Luke Marshall added second-half touchdowns for the Irish province
Gael Fickou and Louis Picamoles crossed for Toulouse
Ulster kept their hopes of Champions Cup quarter-final qualification alive by completing back-to-back victories over Toulouse with a 25-23 success on Sunday at Stade Ernest-Wallon
The defeat was just the French side’s third loss in their last 11 home games while the Irish province had never won in Toulouse.
The visitors though continued where they left off last weekend, racing to a ten-point lead with Ruan Pienaar touching down the game’s opening try with fly-half Jackson making up the total with a conversion and penalty. This would have conjured up memories of last week’s 38-0 victory over the hosts in last week’s return fixture.
Jackson was sent to the sin-bin for the away side soon after though before Toulouse finally got on the board after 116 minutes of rugby against Ulster when Sebastien Bezy slotted a penalty for the hosts to reduce the deficit going into half-time to seven points.
Tries from Andrew Trimble and Luke Marshall ensured the Irish province left with the four points while scores from Gael Fickou and Louis Picamoles ensured the game was competitive and tense up until the final whistle.
Ulster are now cemented in second in Pool One, 10 points behind Saracens, with a game in hand, but Toulouse’s hopes of qualification have ended.
The visitors made the perfect start as Jackson slotted over a penalty with ease after just two minutes.
Ulster, ho were well on top, then made their pressure tell as scrum-half Pienaar darted through the middle of the ruck and dived over to score the opening try of the game. Jackson added the easy conversion to give the visitors a ten-point lead, 0-10.
Toulouse though received a lifeline when fly-half Jackson was sent to the sin-bin by referee JP Doyle via a trip to the TMO for a deliberate knock on after 34 minutes.
With the man advantage, the hosts finally got on the board after 36 minutes when Bezy slotted a penalty from the tee, 3-10.
Even a man down Ulster though continued to look the side most likely to score and they though they had when Rory Scholes strolled over the try line unopposed.
However, the TMO discovered Andrew Trimble’s pass to Louis Ludik earlier in the move drifted forward and the try was chalked
Bezy reduced the deficit further for the hosts two minutes after the restart but back up to their full numbers Ulster scored their second try three minutes later.
The visitors scored in the corner following a superb break from Stuart McCloskey. The centre goes within metres of the line before the ball is recycled and Trimble showed some exceptional finishing skills to give Ulster the five points. Jackson though was off target with the attempted conversion, 6-15.
Toulouse though responded with their first try of the game after 50 minutes as after numerous phases of bashing the Ulster defence from the Toulouse forwards the ball was spun out to Fickou, who dived over for the score. Bezy then knocked over the conversion to reduce the difference to two points, 13-15
A penalty from Bezy then pushed Toulouse into the lead for the first time in the game by a single point.
Jackson restored the visitors advantage before edged further in front when Luke Marshall finished off an excellent try under the posts, which came from a lovely inside ball from his centre partner McCloskey. Jackson then added the conversion to give the visitors a nine-point lead, 16-25
Toulouse gave themselves a glimmer of hope in the 78th minute; Picamoles drove over before Jean-Marc Doussain converted but it was not enough as Ulster ran out 23-25 winners.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Ulster: Stuart McCloskey
Toulouse: 15 Alexis Palisson, 14 Kunatani Kunabuli, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Florian Fritz, 11 Timoci Matanavou, 10 Jean-Marc Doussain, 9 Sébastien Bézy, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Thierry Dusautoir, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Gregory Lamboley, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Gurthro Steenkamp, 18 Gert Muller, 19 Joe Tekori, 20 Louis Picamoles , 21 Gillian Galan, 22 David Mele, 23 Clément Poitrenaud
Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Kyle McCall
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Louis Stevenson, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Rory Scholes
Date: Sunday, December 20
Venue: Stade Ernest Wallon
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Assistant Referees: Darren Gamage (England), Paul Burton (England)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)