Rugby Union: Ntamack wary of Leicester threat

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The Independent Online
Dax 18 Toulouse 26

They are the European Cup holders and they won an exhilarating game at Dax on Saturday, but Toulouse are still wary of going into the Tigers' den.

At the first mention of semi-final opponents Leicester, the Toulouse captain Emile Ntamack looked like a man who had found a penny and lost a pound. "It is going to be very, very difficult," he offered after heaving a huge sigh. "We know some of their players, like Dean Richards and Martin Johnson, and we know they have other fine players. But we don't know much about the team and that is a worry for us.

"To win in Dax took a big effort but we are in the final four and we accept we will have to play at our best to beat Leicester."

Toulouse have a marvellous big-match pedigree - 16 wins from the 17 "sudden death" matches they have played during the last three years, with the one blemish a defeat by Montferrand in the 1994 Du Manoir Cup.

Nevertheless, they had to dig deep before delivering the coup de grace with a wonderful try to crown a match rich in passion, pace and skill. The score that really mattered would have graced any cup final, Ntamack making Dax pay for one of several loose kicks by launching a counter-attack carried on by the big lock Franck Belot. After some quick passing, the centre Michel Marfaing finished off the move.

Dax's hopes of emerging from the shadow of their more illustrious South of France neighbours looked more than a mere possibility as they established a 12-point lead inside the first half-hour. But Toulouse hauled themselves back and shut out the home side in the closing stages.

Two tries by the Dax wing Ugo Mola, superbly created by the boot of Nicholas Morlaes and then the hands of Pascal Giordoni, supplemented by the goalkicking of French rugby's enfant terrible, Richard Dourthe, emphatically informed Toulouse they had a fight on their hands. A couple of penalty goals from Christophe Deylaud had kept Toulouse in touch before they turned the forward screw, their scrummaging earning them a penalty try as Dax retreated in disarray.

Toulouse: Tries M Marfaing, penalty try; Conversions C Deylaud, T Castaignede; Penalties C Deylaud 2, T Castaignede 2. Dax: Tries U Mola 2; Conversion R Dourthe; Penalty R Dourthe 2.

Dax: R Dourthe; U Mola (F Duberger, 44), P Giordani, F Tauzin, P Labeyrie; J-F Dubois, N Morlaes; O Gouaillard (W Rebeyrotte, 63), R Ibanez (T Rechou, 72, D Laperne, P Beraud (F Dupleichs, 51), O Roumat (capt), O Magne, R Berek, F Pelous.

Toulouse: S Ougier; E Ntamack (capt), M Marfaing, T Castaignede, D Berty; C Deylaud, J Cazalbou; C Califano, P Soula, J-L Jordana, H Miorin, F Belot, D Lacroix, R Sonnes (H Manent, 48), S Dispagne.

Referee: Patrick Thomas (France).